• Switzerland's news in English
 
app_header_v3
UN summit on settling Syrians set for Geneva
UN headquarters building in Geneva. Photo: The Local

UN summit on settling Syrians set for Geneva

Nina Larson/AFP · 7 Jan 2016, 18:03

Published: 07 Jan 2016 18:03 GMT+01:00

Filippo Grandi said the ministerial conference, to be opened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on March 30th in Geneva, would be the first of its kind ever organized by the world body.

"This is a bit unchartered territory," said the 58-year-old Italian, who took over the UNHCR helm less than a week ago after Antonio Guterres of Portugal stepped down after a decade in charge.

He told journalists in Geneva that the conference would "ask states to pledge places, not money," and would "be limited to Syrian refugees because they are the most urgent problem."

The conference, he said, was desperately needed to help better manage the refugee crisis sparked by Syria's brutal civil war, which has lasted nearly five years and killed more than 250,000 people.

Most of the more than four million people who have fled war-ravaged Syria have found refuge in surrounding countries, which have come under enormous pressure.

As the war has dragged on and conditions have worsened in surrounding states, Syrian refugees have increasingly set their sights on Europe and account for a majority of the more than one million migrants who risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean to the continent last year alone.

Nearly 3,800 people drowned or went missing attempting the perilous journey in 2015, according to UNHCR.

 Legal pathways

Story continues below…

"We have to urge states to increase the possibility for refugees, especially in countries burdened by large numbers of refugees . . . to facilitate the exit of refugees from these countries, not through trafficking, but through what we call legal pathways," Grandi said.

"Organizing this movement rather than leaving it in the hands of those that are basically criminals, I think has a lot of advantages," he added.

Grandi voiced his support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has come under fire at home as the country struggles to cope with nearly 1.1 million asylum seekers last year last year alone, insisting her welcoming stance toward migrants was "an example" to follow.

But he expressed deep concern over moves by some European countries to close their doors to the migrants and refugees moving though the continent.

"Setting limits, erecting barriers, closing doors is not the message that we would like to come out of Europe," Grandi said.

He warned that "the rest of the world is looking at what Europe is doing in terms of asylum."

"If Europe starts setting limits, pushing back, erecting barriers, being hostile, the rest of the world will follow, and the rest of the world has a bigger burden," he cautioned, pointing out that only ten percent of refugees worldwide are in Europe.

Grandi has taken the helm of the UNHCR as the agency is dealing with record levels of displacement worldwide.

The number of people displaced by war and violence hit a record high in 2015 of more than 60 million — surpassing even the 50-million mark reached during the Second World War. 

For more news from Switzerland, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Nina Larson/AFP (news@thelocal.ch)

Today's headlines
Geneva advises teachers on religion in school
File photo: C Carlstead

The secular canton of Geneva has issued guidelines for teachers on how to deal with religious issues in the classroom.

All you need to know about Switzerland’s strangest sports
Swiss wrestling is the main event at the Eidgenössische. Photo: Ulrich Ackermann/Swiss Tourism

The Local takes a closer look at the unique Swiss sports that are the highlight of the Fédérale, or Eidgenössische, festival this weekend.

Basel woman tied up and robbed in own home
Basel city. File photo: Michelle Kinsey Bruns

The victim was attacked by three burglars in her home in broad daylight.

Swiss sports court upholds Russia ban from Paralympics
Head of Russia's Paralympic Committee Vladimir Lukin. Photo: Yuri Kadobnov/AFP

Russia has lost an appeal against a suspension issued over a vast, state-run doping programme.

Swiss Post trials robot parcel deliveries in Bern
The robots are designed to carry out local deliveries autonomously. Photo: Starship

Robots will be seen on the streets of the Swiss capital next month.

 Mia and Noah are top Swiss baby names – again
File photo: Robert Valencia

Name choices have varied little over the past few years.

Valais battles to save famous apricots from fruit fly
Apricots are a symbol of the Valais. Photo: Valais Tourism

The suzukii fruit fly has destroyed up to 20 percent of this year’s luizet apricots.

US approves Chinese mega deal with Swiss company
The chairmans of ChemChina and Syngenta met in February to discuss the deal. Photo: Michael Buholzer/AFP

ChemChina's takeover of Syngenta would be by far the biggest-ever overseas acquisition by a Chinese firm.

Germany bolsters Swiss border against refugees
Ther Swiss-German border at Kreuzlingen. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The number of refugees trying to enter Germany through Switzerland has risen significantly in 2016.

Rio 2016
In pictures: final day success takes Swiss to seven medals
Nino Schurter wins Switzerland's third gold of Rio 2016. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

Nino Schurter takes mountain biking gold on the last day of competition.

Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: AFP
Politics
Survey: Swiss optimistic about Brexit effect
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: Neil Heritage/Endeavour Fund
Features
Amputee's Matterhorn trek 'makes it more possible' for others
Photo: EPFL
International
Switzerland tops global innovation table – again
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Photo: Vasily Cotovanu
National
Asylum centre plans shelved after Swiss village protests
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Photo: The Local
Politics
Neuchâtel looks to boost rights for foreigners
Photo: AFP
Sport
In pictures: final day success takes Swiss to seven medals
Photo: AFP
National
Experts debate rail security following Swiss train attack
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
File photo: AFP
Sport
Two basejumpers die in Lauterbrunnen accidents
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: AFP
International
Amnesty fears for child migrants at Italian border
Photo: AXA Winterthur
National
Report: Geneva is Swiss capital of car theft
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Photo: Dani Pozo/AFP
National
Top tips for watching the meteor shower in Switzerland
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
File photo: Andrew Turner
Technology
Swiss start-up to offer drone service to farmers
Photo: Beat Strasser
National
British quadruple amputee summits Matterhorn
Photo: Judit Klein
National
Switzerland sees rise in child victims of forced marriage
Photo: Michael Schlick/OS Muhr
National
Swiss hiker in Austria rescued after sending SOS to America
Photo: Chris Murphy
Features
14 mistakes foreigners make on moving to Switzerland
Photo: AFP
Lifestyle
Swiss resort unveils huge ‘natural’ fresco on mountain
Photo: C Sonderegger/Swiss Tourism
National
Five great Swiss traditions all expats should try
Photo: AFP
National
Confirmed cases of Zika virus soar in Switzerland
Photo: eGuide Travel
National
Prison for woman who faked Swiss airport bomb threat
Photo: AFP
Technology
Swiss solar plane completes epic round-the-world trip
File photo: Chase Elliott Clark
Lifestyle
Study: a fifth of Swiss spy on neighbours
Photo: Katwarn.de
National
Switzerland mulls alarm text message service
4,697
jobs available