The UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres selected Turkey to launch UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report and to mark World Refugee Day as a gesture of support to the country which in the last year has become the biggest refugee-hosting nation in the world, largely as a result of conflict in Iraq and Syria, where the war has entered its 5th year. High Commissioner Guterres was also accompanied by UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie-Pitt in his visit to a refugee camp in southeastern Turkey on the occasion of the World Refugee Day on 20 June. In the course of his visit on 17-21 June 2015, High Commissioner Guterres met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu; held talks with other high-level Turkish authorities, NGOs/INGOs, donor community and also met with refugees in Ankara and southeast of Turkey.
Launch of the Global Trends Report in Istanbul, 18 June 2015
On 18 June 2015, High Commissioner Guterres launched the 2014 Global Trends report with a press conference in Istanbul. The report shows a sharp escalation in the number of people forced to flee their homes, with 59.5 million people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 – the highest ever seen in a single year – compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago. Underlining that the world has experienced a staggering escalation of displacement and human suffering as a result of a “world at war”, High Commissioner Guterres warned that the humanitarian community no longer had the capacity and the resources to respond to such a dramatic increase in humanitarian needs.
Presenting the Global Trends’ figures High Commissioner Guterres said: “We estimate that more than 2 million refugees are today in Turkey. Turkey has very generously opened its borders to such a large number of Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans. And that has a special meaning in a world where so many borders are closed or restricted and where new walls are being built or announced. I think that the need to preserve asylum space for so many people in the world in so dramatic circumstances should force everybody to follow the example and to be able to receive, protect and assist all these refugees that are in so dire needs.”
On 19 June 2015, High Commissioner Guterres was in the capital Ankara to hold talks with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Interior Sebahattin Öztürk and Minister of Family and Social Policies Ayşenur İslam. On the occasion of these meetings, High Commissioner Guterres once again extended his gratitude to the Turkish authorities and to the Turkish people for the protection and assistance provided for such a long time to all the people in need of international protection.
In the course of the same day, the High Commissioner visited the office of the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), one of UNHCR’s main implementing partners in Turkey, and spoke to refugees who were in the facility for registration. Refugees shared with the High Commissioner their difficult journey to reach safety in Turkey and their hopes for peace to be restored in their home countries so that they can return.
World Refugee Day, 20 June 2015
On 20 June 2015, High Commissioner Guterres met UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie-Pitt in Midyat district, in Mardin province in southeastern Turkey to mark World Refugee Day (WRD). They met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to thank Turkey and its people and to discuss the challenges that Turkey and other host nations in the region face and their need for much enhanced support. High Commissioner and Special Envoy also paid a visit to the Office of Governor and to the Office of the Metropolitan Mayor in Mardin province.
High Commissioner Guterres and Dr. Fuat Oktay, President of Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) of Turkey visited the refugee camp in Midyat, where over 5,300 refugees from Syria and Iraq are living. UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie-Pitt also met refugee families in the camp. Later in the day, the WRD press conference was held with participation of the High Commissioner and the Special Envoy along with AFAD President Dr. Fuat Oktay. Following this, the High Commissioner joined President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for a fast-breaking dinner in the camp along with the refugees.
In the press conference, High Commissioner Guterres warned that world stability is falling apart leaving a wake of displacement on an unprecedented scale and said: “Around the world, almost 60 million have been displaced by conflict and persecution. Nearly 20 million of them are refugees, and more than half are children. Their numbers are growing and accelerating, every single day, on every continent.”
Reiterating that Turkey sets an example in the world in maintaining very generously its open-door policy for people in need of international protection, High Commissioner Guterres noted that that is why he is in Turkey to mark the World Refugee Day and added “I’d like to underline that Turkey has done this with very little support from the international community. Turkey has already spent 6 billion USD in direct assistance to refugees. I’d like to express once again my appreciation and gratitude to Turkish authorities and Turkish people.”
Underlining that the World Refugee Day marks frightening truths about the inability of the international community to manage international crisis, UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie-Pitt added: “Displacement at 60 million is a sign of our inability to work together as a community, to apply all our laws and uses our collective institutions effectively. To live by our standards and keep our word. There is an explosion of human suffering and displacement on a level that has never been seen before, and it cannot be managed by aid relief, it must be managed by diplomacy and law.” Calling on the UN Security Council to send their ministers and ambassadors to witness this crisis for themselves and see that it simply cannot go on, Special Envoy added “It is past time for a credible plan to reach a political solution to end the conflict”. She concluded her remarks by extending her thanks to the people of Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan for their generosity.
Underlining the importance of the day for refugees worldwide, AFAD President Dr. Fuat Oktay noted that Midyat and Mardin is a special place where civilizations meet and live in peace with respect to each other just like the refugee camp in Midyat where people from different countries live side by side. Noting that the highest number of refugees worldwide has been reached, AFAD President Dr. Fuat Oktay extended his thanks to High Commissioner and Special Envoy for their sensitivity and for this visit to Turkey on the occasion of the World Refugee Day. “I hope this is going to be an example for the rest of the world.” Oktay added, underlining that the visits contribute to enhancing awareness with regards to refugees.
On 21 June 2015, High Commissioner Guterres visited Suruç refugee camp in Şanlıurfa province, which is the largest refugee camp in Turkey with a capacity to accommodate 35,000 people. High Commissioner Guterres was greeted by a girl band playing the bağlama (a stringed musical instrument) and visited refugee families. High Commissioner Guterres then paid a visit to the Office of Governor and the Office of the Gaziantep Metropolitan Mayor in Gaziantep province, one of the border provinces hosting largest number of Syrian refugees in Turkey. High Commissioner Guterres commended the advocacy conducted by Turkey for the protection of refugees both on regional and world scale and extended his sincere gratitude for the protection and assistance provided.