Dr Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (20 June) on World Refugee Day:
It is becoming ever more common for people to be forced to leave their homes due to violent conflicts, persecution or massive human rights violations.
At the end of last year, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) 68.5 million people had been forced to flee their homes including more than 25 million refugees and 40 million internally displaced persons. This was a sad new record.
When people find themselves driven from their homes, they need reliable international protection. They frequently also require humanitarian aid to provide for themselves and their families in a dignified and safe manner. The increasingly difficult conditions faced by humanitarian agencies trying to help people in crisis regions are a cause for concern. Making sure that aid agencies have unhindered humanitarian access remains a key issue for which we must always take a firm stand.
We must work together to support the aid organisations which look after refugees, as well as the countries, local authorities and regions which take in particularly many people. I thus very much welcome the fact that the Federal Foreign Office significantly increased its contributions to UNHCR once again last year – to approximately 405 million euros.
Just one week ago I was in Athens and on the Greek island of Samos, where I visited reception centres and aid projects for women, men and child refugees. Many of them had experienced terrible violence and fled unbearable hardship in war-torn Syria; many of them had been separated from their families. Of course, responsibility to protect refugees and to offer them hope for the future must be shared worldwide on many shoulders; Germany advocates such an approach. However, I also repeat my calls for cohesion in the European Union and for action in line with the principles of responsibility and solidarity.
A few days ago, Germany was elected to the United Nations Security Council. We also want to work together with the international community in this new capacity to further intensify our efforts to contain crises and conflicts or to stop them from arising in the first place. This is without a doubt the most effective action we can take to reduce the causes for refugee movements.
The mission of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is to protect and assist the world’s refugees, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers, stateless persons and returnees. UNHCR is the guardian of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the most important international document on the protection of refugees.
Over the past five years, the Federal Government has increased its budget for humanitarian assistance abroad to more than ten times what it had previously spent. This makes Germany one of the largest donors of humanitarian aid. In 2017, Federal Foreign Office spending for this purpose amounted to approximately 1.7 billion euros. At the same time, Germany is working internationally to innovate and strengthen the humanitarian system. In a parallel effort, the Federal Foreign Office has joined forces with people and partners involved in Germany’s cultural relations and education policy to significantly increase cultural work in crisis-hit regions.