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Higgins attacks UK and other nations who failed to attend UN humanitarian summit

Published 09/06/2016

President Higgins said some nations are not living up to their aid and funding pledges for war-struck regions
President Higgins said some nations are not living up to their aid and funding pledges for war-struck regions

President Michael D Higgins has hit out at the leaders of the UK, US, China, France and Russia for not attending a United Nations humanitarian summit.

In an address on the migrant and refugee crisis, Mr Higgins warned some countries are not living up to their pledges for aid and funding for war-ravaged regions such as Syria.

But he singled out the five countries who have permanent positions on the UN Security Council, for not attending a conference in Istanbul last month organised by secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

"When one considers the wider context of the stalled peace process in Syria, and the daunting challenges of resolving conflicts, restricting the flow of arms to war zones, and building peace in the long term, the absence of senior leaders from any of the permanent members of the Security Council was more than disappointing," he said.

President Higgins detailed some of the shocking numbers behind the global migrant and refugee crisis.

They include almost 60 million people displaced, the highest number since World War Two, with more than half from Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria, and an estimated 2,510 people who died trying to cross the Mediterranean.

But Mr Higgins said: " By focusing on aggregate figures, we run the risk of losing sight of the lived experience of those displaced.

"Indeed, those who seek to use the crisis to promote anti-immigrant sentiment and rhetoric often try to dehumanise the refugee and migrant populations by referring to them in absolute numbers, as movements or blocks, denying the individual dignity, the human rights, of each mother, father, brother, sister or child whose life has been devastated."

President Higgins used his speech at the Immigrant Council of Ireland's A Call to Unity conference to praise some of Ireland's contributions to aid programmes.

The state has taken in 273 people from refugee camps in Lebanon and another 247 are due to arrive by the end of September.

But he warned there is an onus on developed nations to do more.

"Human rights obligations of the nature and scale of those associated with the current refugee crisis cannot be delegated.

"The responsibility of the prosperous - especially those who have historically prospered through colonialism and domination - cannot be traded away," he said.

Mr Higgins added: "We are at a critical moment in our history. The refugee and migration crisis is great in scale and is likely to remain at the centre of the EU and international agenda for several decades to come.

"Let us be in no doubt - the consequences for Ireland and Europe if we were to seek to avoid our responsibility to respond would be catastrophic.

"The opportunity that we have to make a real difference to the future of our human family, to shape a future built on solidarity, compassion and common humanity is one that we cannot afford to refuse."

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