• Switzerland's news in English
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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Autumn in Switzerland: ten stunning Instagram photos
Photo: Swiss Tourism/Jan Geerk

Switzerland is beautiful in all seasons, but as these photos show, autumn is a special time in the alpine country.

Report: Swiss progress slows on gender equality
File photo: David Soulivet

Globally, it will take 170 years to achieve gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum.

Brothers go to court to stop suicide of sibling
File photo: Lisa Edmonds

Two men have filed a legal bid to prevent the Swiss assisted suicide association Exit from helping their older brother to kill himself.

Wawrinka snubs past form to reach Basel second round
Wawrinka beat local wildcard Marco Chiudinelli. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

US Open champion Stan Wawrinka has reached the second round in Basel after going out in the first round for the past four years.

Villagers asked to help fund bridge renovations
The bridge links the two villages of Veltheim (pictured) and Holderbank. Photo: Lutz Fischer-Lamprecht

The crowdfunding campaign by the two communes is the first of its kind in Switzerland.

Police discover body buried in Orbe house
File photo: Bas Leenders

Police have opened an investigation after finding a body buried in a house in Orbe, in the canton of Vaud, on Saturday.

Valais shaken by 4.2 magnitude earthquake
The earthquake hit in the canton of Valais near Sierre. Photo: Alain Rouiller

It's the biggest earthquake to hit the country for two years.

Swiss Indoors kicks off without champ Federer
Federer celebrates with ball girls and boys after winning the event in 2015. Photo: Harold Cunningham/Pool/AFP

Stan Wawrinka is top seed as injured Federer sits it out.

IOC hires Russian doping whistleblower as consultant
IOC President Thomas Bach confirmed the news. File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has hired Vitaly Stepanov as a consultant and is helping his runner wife Yuliya.

‘Scary clown’ craze hits streets of Zurich
Photo: Pedro Pardo/AFP

Police in Zurich have warned so-called ‘scary clowns’ that they could face charges, following a number of incidents in the city.

Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben
Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: The Local
Ticino firefighters rescue cow from swimming pool
Photo: Antoni Da Campo
Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
Photo: Randy Kashka
Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Seven things you’ll miss about Switzerland if you leave
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
jobs available