High Level Meeting on Global responsibility sharing through pathways for admission of Syrian Refugees

Naci Koru 30.03.2016

Statement made by H.E. Ambassador Naci Koru, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Republic of Turkey

Mr. Secretary General,
Mr. High Commissioner,

Allow me first to express my thanks to Mr. Secretary General to convene this meeting when issues of migration and refugee movements are high on the international agenda. I am delighted to witness such a wide interest and participation of the international community. We should seize this opportunity to work towards new and sustainable forms of cooperation to relieve the situation in the region.

The world is undergoing an unprecedented period of time. Global displacement is at the highest level ever recorded. Of the 60 million forcibly displaced, nearly 20 million are refugees and half of these refugees are children.

It is the Syrian crisis which has sent these numbers soaring. As the conflict in the country entered its sixth year, more than 11 million people have been compelled to flee their homes. Around 6.5 million people have been internally displaced and more than 4.6 million people have sought shelter in neighboring countries.

Unfortunately, these numbers do not seem to decline. On the contrary, migration flows from Syria still continue. Thus, the situation of displaced Syrians requires continued international attention.

Distinguished participants,

Currently, Turkey is the neighboring country that hosts more than 2.7 million Syrians seeking protection and assistance. And Turkey is the biggest refugee hosting country in the world.

We grant “temporary protection” status to Syrians and provide them with accommodation, food items, as well as medical, educational and psycho-social services.

Our policy is based on humanitarian responsibility and international law. We have mobilized all our resources and capabilities to address the needs of these people on behalf of the international community.

The aim of Turkey is not only to save the lives and provide a safe harbor for the Syrian asylum-seekers but also to improve their living conditions. With this understanding, Syrians were allowed to access to the labour market in Turkey as of January 2016.

I would like to touch upon the education issue in detail. To put it in the first place, the Syrian children are the future of Syria. A stable, democratic and prosperous Syria will be rebuilt in the hands of these children. With this in mind, education of the Syrian children is of utmost priority on our agenda.

Out of 750 thousand school-age Syrian children in Turkey, almost 400 thousand miss on schooling. New schools, classrooms and teachers are needed to eliminate this gap in school enrollment.

On the other hand, 152 thousand Syrian babies born in Turkey, is worthy of attention. We should not forget that it is our joint responsibility to give these children a good start in life.

The amount of money that we spent for all these efforts has reached 10 billion US Dollars. After all, the international community’s financial contribution to Turkey falls short of meeting the expectations, with an amount of 462 million US Dollars.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Other countries hosting large refugee populations face similar challenges, too. The responsibility to cope with the Syrian humanitarian crisis cannot be left to forefront countries alone. Proximity does not necessarily require responsibility. The international community has to share the responsibility and the burden. There is no room for complacency. Any failure at burden-sharing would result in unbearable costs for all the members of the international community. Therefore, we should join our efforts for the sake of our common future.

In addition, we should also keep in mind that displaced people need more than emergency response. They also need a prospect for the future. It is our duty to help them build their own future.

In this framework, resettlement and other legal pathways for admission of Syrians offer a window of opportunity for the international community to share the responsibility for Syrians more equitably.

Furthermore, resettlement is a chance given to the refugees for new beginnings. It facilitates the movement of refugees in legal, safe and orderly manner. If enough places are timely secured through this channel, people would not opt for irregular migration. Besides, it would avert the need to resort to migrant smugglers.
Therefore, resettlement may in the ongoing migration crisis present a viable alternative to uncontrollable mass influxes to Europe.

However, this mechanism nowadays is not functioning well. It must be reactivated and genuine resettlement schemes should be developed with the contribution of all members of the international community.

170.000 commitments have already been made to UNHCR for the admission of Syrians through resettlement or in other forms. The target of achieving pathways for admission for 10 percent of the Syrian refugee population (4.6 million) over the next three years is also a good start, but not sufficient at all. More countries should engage in admitting Syrians and much larger numbers of Syrians should be provided with this opportunity.

As regards the situation in Turkey, in 2015, only 1.140 Syrians were resettled through UNHCR to a third country. The number is 206 so far in 2016. Hence, resettlement scores are very poor compared to the Syrian population of over 2.7 million in Turkey. We believe that the support given to UNHCR should be strengthened meaningfully.

On the other hand, I would like to draw your attention to the Canada’s recent resettlement program with Turkey. The program started in January and so far 2.238 Syrians have been resettled in Canada. This was an example of successful cooperation between the two countries. We are grateful to UNHCR for their support to this program and encourage all receiving states to follow this example.

Having said that, I also would like to touch upon theTurkey-EU agreement which also contains elements of resettlement.

We reached a game changer deal with the EU on 18 March to completely stem irregular crossings in the Aegean. The deal is based onthe proposal made by Turkey only for humanitarian purposes. Our main objective isto prevent loss of lives in the Aegean, crush the migrant smuggling networks and replace irregular migration with regular migration.

In fact, we have been taking all necessary measures to end the irregular migration in the Aegean. While there were 6.827 irregular crossings on daily average in October, this figure decreased to 2.174 in January, 1.967 in February and only 900 in March.

Since our deal has become operational on 20 March, we witness a dramatic decline in numbers. For the first time daily arrivals to Greek islands decreased to three-digits. On average 400 migrants reached the islands in the last 10 days.

Apparently, our deal contributed much to achieve these scores.

We will take back all irregular migrants as of 4 April, while on the same date
resettlement of Syrians in Turkey will start towards the EU countries in accordance with "1 for 1" formula. If it is effectively implemented by both sides, I am confident that we will yield concrete results in a very short term and be able to stop the irregular crossings completely.

This exercise will be the most stunning example of burden and responsibility sharing that Turkey has beenadvocatingsince the eruption of the Syrian crisis in 2011. We are pleased that the EU is now enthusiastic about resettlement and aware of the need to strive for safety and better humanitarian conditions inside Syria. We should succeed in this agreementto transform the Aegean Sea into an area of reinforced cooperation and stability. We should exert all our efforts to this end.

Distinguished participants,

Turkey reiterates its support to the Roadmap of the UN on addressing the large movements of migrants and refugees that was announced by His Excellency Mr. Secretary General on 20 November 2015, during the session held in the UN General Assembly upon Turkey’s initiative.

While proposing this, we aimed at increasing global awareness of the hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants and refugees on the move in our region and beyond. As a result, this initiative constituted a starting point for the UN series of activities on migration crisis.

As part of the Roadmap, today’s meeting will hopefully contribute to the process that will culminate in a high-level plenary session on 19 September 2016. Also, we look forward to contributing to the preparations of the said High Level Meeting.

Moving onto another component of this Roadmap, The World Humanitarian Summit is very timely to discuss such critical issues of concern with the aim of adapting the international humanitarian system in the face of present challenges. The Summit, as the first of its kind, will be held at the level of Heads of State and Government in Istanbul on23-24 May 2016.

Turkey is fully committed to make the Summit a success for the sake of our common human family. Turkey believes that, the Summitshould seta future where global actions on refugee issuesareaddressed with particular emphasis on assisting refugees and their host countries. Turkey also believes that this must bedone througha holistic and sustainable approach combining humanitarian assistance with development tools.

It is with this sense of urgency that I call upon all Member States and stakeholdersto support this historic journeyand to participate in the Summit at the highest level.

To conclude, the moral values that we all share, entail urgent joint action to bring an end to this humanitarian tragedy. Turkey will continue to do its part to this end.

Thank you.


Sadık Arslan Ambassador

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