Statement by H.E. Mr. Naci Koru, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, on Agenda Item 130 Global awareness of the tragedies of irregular migrants in the Mediterranean basin with specific emphasis on Syrian asylum-seekers at the 59th Plenary Meeting of the 70th Session of the UNGA

H.E. Naci Koru 20.11.2015


Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to attend this very timely meeting at the UN General Assembly.

At the outset, we thank the President of the General Assembly for scheduling this meeting and his
strong remarks.

We also thank Mr. High Commissioner Guterrres, for his dedicated service over a decade, helping and advocating for the needs of refugees.

Today’s meeting is the first one under the agenda item “Global awareness of the tragedies of irregular migrants in the Mediterranean basin with specific emphasis on Syrian asylum-seekers.”

Turkey proposed the inclusion of this item on the General Assembly’s 70th Session’s agenda. We did this because we wanted to place our faith in the UN and its membership, and to increase global awareness of the hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants and refugees on the move in our region and beyond.

However, this is not Turkey’s agenda item per se. We have proposed it with the hope that the international community will show genuine interest and take ownership of this issue.

Distinguished participants,

In times of crises of such magnitude, the international community resorts to the UN. We have to provide a response, and the General Assembly is the right place to do this.

The crisis in Syria has caused the world’s largest humanitarian tragedy. Almost half of the country’s population, approximately 12 million, have been displaced. More than 4 million Syrians have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

As a neighbor to Syria, Turkey is deeply affected by this tragedy. Despite all challenges, we continue to pursue an "open door" policy towards all Syrians.

According to the UNHCR, Turkey is the biggest refugee-hosting country in the world today. Our country is home to 2.5 million Syrians and Iraqis. In addition to this number, an average of 110 babies are born every day in protection centers alone.

Our aim is to save as many as we can, and to improve the living conditions of those who have made it to our homeland.

But as a solution to the crisis lingers, the number of those who attempt the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to European shores, has been increasing dramatically. That is why the Turkish Coast Guard has initiated new operations to save lives at sea. In 2015, the number of migrants rescued at the sea has increased fivefold in comparison to last year.

On the other hand, Syrians in Turkey, both in protection centers and urban areas, are provided with food, non-food items, healthcare, education services, psychological support, vocational training and social activities.

Turkey will continue to provide protection and assistance to those in need and save the lives of distressed migrants and asylum-seekers. It is however, becoming increasingly clear that forefront countries like us, faced with thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers a day, cannot cope with the crisis alone.

The truth is this: there is a lack of solidarity in the international community. This makes the Syrian crisis worse than it has to be. The world is facing what has been called the biggest humanitarian tragedy since the Second World War. We should face this responsibility and share this burden.

With this understanding, I believe yesterday’s meeting and today’s debate will be instrumental in several ways.

First, our discussions will deepen the understanding that a sustainable solution to migration and refugee issues can only be attained if the “root causes,” such as wars, conflicts and economic deprivation in source countries, are addressed.

It can also be attained if other factors and phenomena, such as climate change, are handled meaningfully, or the resilience and prevention agenda is fostered. We should do this not only in the aftermath of epidemics and natural disasters, but before them, with effective early warning in place.

We should thus take advantage of the fact that the General Assembly brings together different intergovernmental processes that carry the instruments and targets to address these “root causes.”

Among these, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets goals and targets to better reap the benefits of migration. Tackling the root causes of forced or involuntary migration is a key element of the 2030 Agenda’s goal number 10. Goal number 16, dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies, is equally important. We have to advance and implement these targets resolutely.

Second, we have to acknowledge that we are facing a global crisis. The political crises in the Mediterranean basin continue to cause massive waves of forced displacement. But the flow of migrants and refugees does not stop there.

Globally, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Dramatic events in the Horn of Africa, the Bay of Bengal, the Gulf of Aden and Eastern Europe show us that this is a systemic challenge for the long term.

Given the complex and cross-border nature of the migration crisis, international cooperation and solidarity are indispensable in finding political solutions to problems. Uniting our individual and regional efforts under the UN would make this effort more effective.

Third, we require a new model of thinking and cooperation among the source, transit and destination countries. The current way of looking at humanitarian assistance cannot provide long-term solutions to the challenges we face. This is not about charity. International assistance has to be seen as a long-term investment into our collective security, peace and prosperity. Our societies are increasingly connected to each other. Whether we are donors, recipients or both, we share a responsibility towards those who are most vulnerable, no matter where they are.

Funding for the urgent needs of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as longer-term development efforts, are essential. Resources for one of these areas should not come at the expense of the other.

Turkey believes that reducing development assistance to refugees is not only counterproductive, but dangerous to the global order. That is why we will continue to increase our development and humanitarian assistance for those in need. In line with this, capacity building activities for governments and societies will remain an integral part of our efforts.

In that regard, we hope that the Syria Donors Conference, to be held in February 2016 in London, will provide new and meaningful funding. It should address not only the needs of millions of Syrians displaced inside their country, but also the ones under the protection of neighboring countries.

Following that Conference, the World Humanitarian Summit will be held at the level of Heads of State and Government in Istanbul on 23-24 May 2016. This Summit will be a vital opportunity for the international community to upgrade its methods and synchronize its perspectives. Combining the efforts of humanitarian assistance with development tools should be a priority of the Summit and could yield long-lasting results.

Lastly, we strongly believe that international migration, and particularly irregular migration, cannot be managed by governments alone. Governments need the cooperation of other stakeholders, including international organizations, civil society and the private sector.

With that in mind, we have undertaken the Chairmanship of the Global Forum on Migration and Development for the term 2014-2015, to share our experience in humane and efficient management of multiple issues arising from international migration in a new era of mobility. Our overarching theme “Strengthening Partnerships: Human Mobility for Sustainable Development” has not only stressed the urgency for firm cooperation among all stakeholders, but also put a strong emphasis on the tremendous potential of migration to promote development.

We held the 8th Summit Meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development recently in Istanbul, on 14-16 October 2015, with major participation and interest from all over the world. This Summit came at a time when the world’s attention is focused on migration more intensely than at any time in a generation. In the face of this turmoil, it is easy to forget that migration in today’s world is a positive factor, especially from a development perspective.

During the Summit meeting, we discussed innovative ways to improve migration as a factor in development, human mobility and the well-being of migrants. With our initiative, “forced migration” has found a place in the GFMD agenda for the first time.

Based on this approach, I would like to suggest the following topics for the General
Assembly’s consideration in the days ahead.

• First, we should enhance the efforts of the UN system in response to the global migration and refugee crisis with a particular emphasis on Syrians and
ask the Secretariat to present a set of recommendations to this end. To this end, we
support the Secretary-General’s structured approach he just shared with us.

• Second, we need to establish linkages between various initiatives on international migration and refugee flows. These include previous and upcoming processes, such as
the Valetta Summit, UN Conference on Climate Change and the World Humanitarian
Summit. We should look at ways in which those linkages could provide us a
way of strengthening our individual, regional and international efforts.

• Third, we need to push for a more forward-looking and positive understanding of migration and refugee flows, while recognizing the contributions of migrants and refugees
to the societies they live in, socially and economically. It is our hope that the members of this esteemed body will give serious consideration to these proposals
and provide useful new ones.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers find themselves in some of the most destitute situations of the entire human race. For those of us fortunate enough to be walking these halls, the measure of humanity is in our empathy towards their predicament. By improving conditions to enable a life of dignity and equality, we can make crossing international borders a matter of informed choice, not desperation.

It is therefore high time for us to act together on this issue. Turkey stands ready to work in concert with all stakeholders to address this humanitarian catastrophe.

Thank you for your attention.