Today, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian gave a speech at a high-level meeting on global responsibility sharing and sheltering Syrian refugees.
High Commissioner Grandi, Dear colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Speaking at this venue I would like to pay tribute to the first High Commissioner for Refugees of the League of Nations Fridtjof Nansen whose name symbolized hope and salvation for countless refugees. His determination and commitment to tackle the plight of refugees stand as a true model of inspiration today when the world is facing one of the worst humanitarian crises of the last decades.
For years the war in Syria has ravaged the life of the Syrian people scattering hundreds of thousands of them throughout the region and beyond. Armenia has been among the first to strongly condemn the barbaric acts committed by “DAESH” (ISIS), Al-Nusra, and other terrorist groups, against ethnic and religious minorities, including our fellow Armenians and their cultural and religious heritage, which has for centuries defined the region’s multicultural and multiethnic mosaic. Last year here at the Human Rights Council, we characterized them as “crimes against civilization.”
There is a sad symbolism for Armenians in taking refuge from the very places which have sheltered them hundred years ago. Nansen and many other humanists helped the survivors of the Armenian Genocide to overcome the horrors of massacres and displacement. Today, about 20,000 refugees from Syria sought protection in Armenia, on per capita basis making our country as the third largest recipient of Syrian refugees in Europe. This is a considerable number for a country of just 3 million, which in the recent past has already sheltered hundreds of thousands fleeing from Azerbaijan. Thus, we know what it means to be a refugee and to host considerable number of refugees and we certainly join this discussion with strong sense of solidarity and responsibility.
Our own experience tells us that the humanitarian situations of this magnitude require synergy of efforts and cannot be addressed by any one state alone. This is true for every refugee-hosting country, but probably more so for a country with limited resources. We would like to draw the attention of the international donor community that the commitment to assist countries sheltering refugees should not be conditioned only by their geographic location, but rather should be based on the principle of more equitable responsibility sharing, without any distinction, in the spirit of international protection regime for refugees.
Armenia will certainly continue to make its utmost to take care of the Syrians who have found refuge in our country. We will appreciate the assistance to Armenia to address the urgent humanitarian needs of refugees from Syria and pave avenues towards local integration. To that end the Armenian Government has made relevant legislative changes facilitating the entry into the country, obtaining of the residency permit or citizenship, developing of the businesses, getting necessary medical assistance and emergency help free of charge, providing scholarships at the Universities to name but a few.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we believe that the plight of refugees and the humanitarian response in addressing challenges associated with unprecedented numbers of displaced people should by no means become subject to political trade-offs and manipulations.
Refugee crises confront societies with many questions at the same time. Not only in terms of security, but also with regard to the long-term effects of refugee settlement, employment, education and integration. As it was told in the film, we watched at the opening of this high level meeting: the refugees have right for the brighter future. Fridtjof Nansen believed that “the refugees who were regarded as an intolerable burden would comprise a rich asset.” The same conviction was expressed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today in his opening speech. Indeed, the histories of many of our countries confirm the accuracy of these words.