UN commissioner calls for more aid for refugees

A high ranking UN official has today put out a call for greater assistance for refugees.

The UN High Commission for Refugees' (UNHCR) Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Erika Feller gave a speech on Wednesday 3rd October 2012, calling for greater political will and more funds to assist the 42.5 million refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced and stateless people who are to be found worldwide.

Ms Feller told the UNHCR's Executive Committee in Geneva that mass displacements of people had occurred this year in Syria, in the South Sudan/Sudan conflict, in Mali and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There were 700,000 more refugees as a result of upheavals this year alone, she said.

Ms Feller said there was 'a prevailing attitude in a number of states to the effect "Yes, we sympathise with your plight but resolve it please elsewhere" '. The UNHCR also suffered severe funding shortages, she said.

Ms Feller said 'situations of forced displacement are not gender neutral; they afflict women and girls disproportionately', though boys too were at great risk.

Using the example of Mali, Ms Feller explained the difficulties the UNHCR faced in helping refugees worldwide. She said that neighbour states, nervous at the proximity of massive refugee camps near to their poorly defended borders offered only the barest of assistance to displaced people. A lack of funds and difficulties in reaching remote areas meant that it was extremely difficult to protect refugees and particularly to prevent children from being recruited as child soldiers or sexually exploited.

Ms Feller said that more resettlement places were urgently needed. At present, she said, there is only one resettlement place for every ten refugees. She said 'refugee work is aid and development. It is a legal world of conventions, human rights, national laws and asylum claims. It is a form of migration management work, with resettlement at its centre. These multifaceted dimensions are at once local, international and political.'

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