UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on governments around the world to allow in more Syrian refugees and “counter fear-mongering” about them.
At a conference in Geneva on Wednesday, Ban urged countries to “act with solidarity, in the name of our shared humanity, by pledging new and additional pathways for the admission of Syrian refugees”.
He said they can do so through “resettlement or humanitarian admission, family reunions, as well as labour or study opportunities”.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR convened a meeting of more than 90 countries at the Swiss UN seat in Geneva, aiming to win new pledges for resettlement and family reunification programmes, as well as study visas.
“We are here to address the biggest refugee and displacement crisis of our time,” Ban said.
These programmes are separate from usual asylum procedures. They are aimed especially at helping vulnerable groups, including women, children and people with medical needs.
Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq have been hosting most of the five million refugees of Syria’s conflict, which has put serious strains on state budgets and public services.
“Communities hosting refugees in neighbouring countries are exhausted,” Ban said.
Furthermore, tens of thousands of Syrian refugees are stranded in European countries without basic rights or the proper documentation to lead a normal life.
Ban also emphasised that countries should not demonise refugees, but should see the opportunities that the people could bring to their new host countries.
“Today, they are refugees. Tomorrow, they can be students and professors, scientists and researchers, workers and care-givers,” he said.
Earlier this year, an international donor conference in London pledged more than $11bn to assist Syrian refugees and internally displaced people in 2016-2020, the bulk of which came from the US and EU member-states.
And wealthy countries have pledged 178,000 of the 480,000 resettlement spots needed for Syrians, according to UN estimates.