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UN Calls for Humane, Responsible Treatment for Refugees

  • Lisa Schlein

People queue to receive free food at a makeshift camp for migrants and refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, April 6, 2016. The U.N. refugee agency reports 65 million people were forcibly displaced last year.

People queue to receive free food at a makeshift camp for migrants and refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, April 6, 2016. The U.N. refugee agency reports 65 million people were forcibly displaced last year.

At least 150 heads of state and government are expected to attend a U.N. Summit on Refugees and Migrants in September in New York. The focus is to get new global commitments to address large movements of refugees and migrants responsibly and humanely.

More people than ever are on the move. The U.N. refugee agency reports 65 million people were forcibly displaced last year. That includes 20 million refugees, with the rest internally displaced.

In addition, tens of millions of people fleeing poverty, climate change or natural disasters are migrating to other countries in search of a better life.

The United Nations says individual countries cannot solve problems of mass migration on their own. It says international cooperation is needed to manage refugee and migration flows in a responsible and orderly manner.

Special Adviser for the September U.N. Summit, Karen Koning AbuZayd, agrees the statistics on migration are daunting. But she says it is wrong for countries to view rising migration only as a crisis.

FILE - Karen Koning AbuZayd, currently a special adviser for the U.N. Summit on Refugees and Migrants, to be held in Septermber in New York, attends a news conference at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Aug. 27, 2014.

FILE - Karen Koning AbuZayd, currently a special adviser for the U.N. Summit on Refugees and Migrants, to be held in Septermber in New York, attends a news conference at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Aug. 27, 2014.


“It certainly is a crisis for the families of refugees and migrants sometimes involved, and for the countries that are affected by this displacement... [but] it does not have to be a crisis if we bring everyone together, to work together, all the states and U.N. entities and so on.”

Because refugees and migrants cross international borders, sometimes multiple borders, AbuZayd says states have to work together. She says the actions of one state have repercussions for others.

"One recent example, of course, is what Kenya has suggested… sending its refugees back, the ones they have had for three decades and 200,000 of them in rather squalid conditions. And, as soon as they said that, then we began to hear the same sorts of messages from Sudan, from Ethiopia and elsewhere.”

The Summit will explore measures for addressing the root causes of displacement and for prosecuting criminal smugglers and traffickers. The United Nations recommends states improve the reception of people on the move and treat those who cross borders in a humane way.

To counter the negative tone surrounding refugees and migrants, AbuZayd says the United Nations will lead a global campaign to conquer xenophobia.

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