Obama Hosts Leaders’ Summit on Refugees
U.S. president Barack Obama is hosting a summit of world leaders at the United Nations to seek concrete pledges to help refugees.
The Leaders’ Summit, cohosted by Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico, Sweden and U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, aims to increase aid to the U.N. and humanitarian groups by at least 30 percent, increase access to education and employment for 2 million refugees and double the number of refugee resettlement places. Several countries released aid pledges ahead of the meeting.
The summit comes a day after countries adopted the New York Declaration to protect refugees and migrants at a special U.N. summit.
U.N. officials and human rights advocates urged nations to match these political commitments with specific measures. “Aspirational words heard at the U.N. General Assembly yesterday have to become today’s concrete actions,” U.N. deputy high commissioner for human rights Kate Gilmore said at a meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly.
Obama told the General Assembly that the world is more secure when national leaders help people in need, and urged wealthy countries to do more to help refugees.
Refugees Flee as Fire Devastates Lesbos Detention Camp
Thousands of refugees have fled a detention camp that went up in flames on the Greek island of Lesbos.
The fire at Moria camp, where some 4,000 refugees are held by Greek authorities, destroyed around 60 percent of the tents and shelters before it was extinguished. No injuries were reported.
The fire broke out September 19 amid protests against rumored deportations. Greece arrested nine people accused of damaging property and causing unrest at the camp, Reuters reported.
Officials on Lesbos urged the Greek government to evacuate refugees affected by the fire to mainland Greece, but European Commission officials told the Associated Press that refugees should remain on the island.
In the meantime, people took shelter in camps run by volunteers, and the Greek government said it would send boats to Lesbos to house some refugees temporarily.
Merkel Expresses Regrets Over Refugee Policy After Electoral Upset
German chancellor Angela Merkel expressed some regrets over her government’s refugee policy after her party lost elections in the German capital Berlin September 18.
Merkel took a strong stance welcoming refugees to Germany in 2015 and over 1 million people applied for asylum in the country last year. These policies have become a flashpoint in German politics.
The German chancellor took responsibility for not explaining her refugee policies more clearly to the country, and said the government should have planned better.
“If I could, I would turn back time many, many years to be able to better prepare myself and the whole government and all those in positions of responsibility for the situation that met us rather unprepared in late summer 2015,” she told a news conference in Berlin.
However, Merkel rejected calls to bar refugees or Muslims from the country, saying this would contradict the country’s constitution, international law and her principles.