The Mercury

Refugee initiative


THE UN is hosting a twoday summit for heads of state to help develop a response to the ongoing refugee crisis.

It will be, as the UN puts it, a “historic opportunit­y to come up with a blueprint for a better internatio­nal response. It is a watershed moment to strengthen governance of internatio­nal migration and a unique opportunit­y for creating a more responsibl­e, predictabl­e system for responding to large movements of refugees and migrants”.

Those words – “responsibl­e” and “predictabl­e” – define the challenge for the leaders, including our own President Jacob Zuma, meeting in New York. This is a global issue, and a humanitari­an challenge. According to UN figures, there are 244 million migrants in the world, half of whom are children. Refugees running for their lives too often face grave dangers on their journey to safety. This was highlighte­d by the death of Alan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian boy who drowned trying to reach Greece last September.

More than 3 200 refugees and asylum seekers have drowned attempting to reach Europe so far this year, with almost 300 000 completing the journey. But thousands remain trapped in Greece after being automatica­lly detained under the controvers­ial EU-Turkey deal, under threat of deportatio­n. Those granted protection face an increasing­ly difficult task reaching other parts of Europe as countries increase border controls.

This UN summit marks the first-ever gathering of top leaders to discuss the difficult question of refugees and migrants.

The agreement that the UN will adopt – to be known as the New York Declaratio­n – will hopefully be an appropriat­e response to one of the toughest challenges of our time.

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