By Tiamiyu Arobani
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday, launched the TOGETHER Campaign to counter xenophobia against refugees and migrants.
Ban, who launched the initiative during a visit to Syrian refugees employed at the Habibi and Hawara restaurant, said 16 million Syrians were currently displaced from their country.
The UN chief said the fusion restaurant exemplified ‘togetherness’ of refugees and locals.
“A minimum of 16 million people are now caught in the middle of this fighting and violence. I have been visiting many Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
“I have at least twice visited all these places and I have been meeting many thousands of such people and I fully, fully support what you are doing and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Austrian people and Government for their warm hearts.”
Ban, however, regretted that uncontrollable number of refugees who fled their homes were facing some “unacceptable situations where leadership-level and community people are showing discriminatory attitudes and making politically very unacceptable remarks.
“All these are unacceptable in the name of humanity. I have been urging world leaders, particularly Europe: Please do not erect walls. Please build a bridge between people, among people and between countries.
“They have no other choice but to flee to other foreign countries to save their lives. We are
living in a small world. We are all the same human beings, whether you are Syrian, whether you are European or Asian. We are all one. We are the same”.
The UN chief said, as a way to support, and as a way to raise the importance of compassion and love for others who need support, he launched the TOGETHER initiative.
He said the TOGETHER campaign fosters: “Respect, safety and dignity for all. Togetherness. We are together. We are the same brothers and sisters. We are the same people, men and women. There is no difference at all”.
He commended the Austrian community for doing what was remarkable for the refugees.
“I will like to ask not only Austrians but all Europeans and many people who can render their support as a part of togetherness, the TOGETHER initiative, that’s what I’m asking you”.
“I was very impressed having met the master chef and chef from the Philippines and Syria.
“Many people, millions of people, are suffering because of the Syrian crisis. This is a good way of integrating into Austrian culture.
“When refugees are coming, they are not coming with problems; they are coming with a different culture, different religion, different skills and different potential, so they can be a good mix with the Austrian and local community,” he said.
The UN chief, however, regretted that “while many people are helping, politicians are fighting”.
Ban said he had brought the issue of the Syrian refugees to the UN, adding that on Sept. 19, at the UN “we had a Humanitarian Summit where more than 150 Heads of State and Government participated and adopted the New York Declaration on two issues – refugees and migrants.
“At this time, we are talking much more about refugees who had to flee their home towns. But at the same time, we have to work for many millions of people, 16 million people who are living in Syria in besieged areas.
“We have 275,000 people in Aleppo who are just caught there. We have tens of thousands of people in Mosul, Iraq. It is not only them. We have 65 million people around the world.”
“That was a political decision on a framework, a legal and political framework that will be adopted
in two years’ time. There will be global responsibility-sharing principles adopted,” Ban assured the Syrian refugees.
However, he said the world could not wait for two years until the agreement takes effect, adding we have to support these people.
Ban said as his tenure comes to an end, he is quite fortunate that his successor, António Guterres, who would take over from Jan 1, 2017, had been serving as High Commissioner for Refugees and had been travelling, meeting refugees and going to refugee camps.
“So he is the man who really has been helping you and has known everything when it comes to refugees,” Ban said.