Forum on Welcoming Syrian Refugees to Canada – Mr. Volker Türk, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

The Assistant High Commissioner thanks Canada for its leadership role and generosity in welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada. He conveys his deep gratitude to the Canadian population for its creativity, flexibility and solidarity in extending a helping hand to the most vulnerable refugees and to those who are fleeing desperation. Volker Türk, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), delivered a speech via video shown at Rideau Hall on December 1, 2015, at a forum on welcoming Syrian refugees to Canada.

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Transcript: “Forum on Welcoming Syrian Refugees to Canada – Mr. Volker Türk, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)”

Video length: 00:03:47 minutes

[light music intro]

A room full of seated people are shown.

Text displays: “Forum on Welcoming Syrian Refugees to Canada – December 1, 2015”.

A man seated in front of a blue and white backdrop speaks.

Your Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, honourable ministers, ladies and gentlemen, I’m very honoured to bring to you the greetings of High Commissioner António Guterres on the occasion of the Ministerial Summit on Refugees in Canada.

Text displays: “Volker Türk – UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection”.

VOLKER TURK: As we all witness today, we are living in a world in turmoil, and one of the most visible manifestation of that world is the growing number of refugees and internally displaced people. Last year, close to sixty million people had been displaced as a result of conflict, persecution and often very serious human rights abuses. Over the last five years, fifteen violent conflicts either broke out or reignited. What we need most when a world is in turmoil is visible signs of solidarity at all levels. We are, therefore, extremely grateful to the people of Canada and to the government for having been one of our staunchest supporters of the refugee cause. And on behalf of refugees, and on behalf of UNHCR, let me express our deepest gratitude to you for your decision to undertake the humanitarian transfer of 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada.

It’s clear the Syria conflict is one of the worst in the world today. It’s in its fifth year. Dramatic consequences for civilians, both inside and outside the country. With the movements that occurred over the last couple of months into Europe, often under extremely dangerous conditions over rough seas, this has become a global issue requiring our utmost attention.

Your program has shown and demonstrated an incredible creativity and flexibility in creating legal pathways to Canada, so that people do not have to resort to smugglers and traffickers.

Generally, we know that the refugee situation deteriorates at the onset of winter. This is now the fifth winter that people are going into. Your program, again, is a manifestation that solidarity can be brought to refugees and to the most vulnerable of them who are increasingly sinking into desperation and often destitution due to the prolongation of the conflict, and also due to a sense of hopelessness.

I wish also to salute and honour the exceptional outpouring of support and generosity from the Canadian public, from the provincial and territorial governments, from local municipalities and local communities, from non-governmental organizations, from ordinary Canadian citizens, who are all involved in organizing reception capacities and welcoming communities, so that the Syrian refugees can find a solution after their long plight. We know that they will be well received in Canada.

You are playing a leading role in the resettlement—in the humanitarian admission of Syrian refugees. It provides an example that we hope that others will replicate and follow through. We look forward to continuing our cooperation with Canada, with the Canadian people, with your government for the protection of refugees worldwide. We need your leadership more than ever before.

Thank you very much.

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