UN chief Ban Ki-moon Wednesday called for a united global effort to tackle the Syrian refugee crisis, as he opened a conference on securing resettlement places for nearly half a million of those displaced.
“We are here to address the biggest refugee and displacement crisis of our time,” Ban told the conference in Geneva. “This demands an exponential increase in global solidarity.”
The UN secretary general, a South Korean, recalled his own experience of fleeing his village with his family as a six-year-old during the Korean War sixty years ago and said that for him stories of refugees stranded in camps with meagre resources “have personal meaning.”
“Attempts to demonise (refugees) are not only offensive; they are factually incorrect,” Ban said, in an apparent reference to rising anti-migrant rhetoric increasingly being voiced by some political leaders across the developed world.
The Geneva meet follows a conference in London in February where nations pledged $11 billion (9.7 billion euros) to help manage one of the largest displacements of people since World War Two.
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates that 4.8 million Syrians have been forced to flee the country during its five-year civil war, while another 6.6 million people have been internally displaced.
The aim of the Geneva meet is to secure relocation pledges for 10 percent of Syria`s refugees, or 480,000 people, within three years.
The UN wants that number of people moved outside of Syria`s neighbours, which are currently absorbing nearly the entire refugee burden.
Ban said the 480,000 figure was “a relatively small number,” compared with those being hosted by Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.