Video address by Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia on World Refugee Day

20 June, 2020

Today we mark the World Refugee Day.

Millions in the world continue to face desperation and struggle to save their lives, their families, their children, to forcibly leave their homes and communities, to flee their homeland and find refuge in a foreign land.

Charles Aznavour, a prominent French-Armenian and a global humanist, once memorably observed “What is happening with the refugees has affected me very much, I imagine my parents in this situation, when they left home to come to France. This is why I will always take the side of the ones who knock on the doors, not the ones who shut them.”

History of every refugee is a history of despair and anguish, often of suffering and exclusion, of denial of protection and rejection of human dignity. Today we renew our solidarity with all those beset by man-made or natural disasters, we honor their courage and resilience and support their hope. We join and pay tribute to all those who extend their helping hand and embrace refugees in their communities. We also renew our adherence to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Armenia hosts a considerable number of refugees and secures for them access to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights similar to those enjoyed by its own citizens. There are many on-going conflicts in the world, which are a major cause of rising global forced displacement. About 22.000 persons displaced due to the conflict in Syria have sought protection in Armenia. This new wave of displacement adds to similar challenges faced by Armenia, already hosting and integrating hundreds of thousands of refugees from Azerbaijan and thousands of refugees displaced not so long ago from Iraq. Global insecurity, instability in various, including neighboring regions, unresolved conflicts remain a source of major concern, including in the context of deepening refugee crises.

With this in mind I would stress two important points. The first concerns the principle of international solidarity, which is also mentioned in the preamble to the 1951 Refugee Convention, recalling that grant of asylum may place unduly heavy burdens on certain countries, and that a satisfactory solution to this problem cannot be achieved without international co-operation.

Against this background it is important to reinforce our commitment to effective multilateralism and consolidated global support to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees. The UNHCR Office in Armenia is a firmly established partner to Armenia, which we highly value and respect. Under the leadership of the High Commissioner and over many years the Office set a strong record of assistance and cooperation in Armenia in addressing the plight of refugees and displaced persons. This cooperation will continue. International cooperation for effectively addressing humanitarian challenges, and the plight of refugees in particular, should have no limits and should be genuinely inclusive. The UNHCR, as well as other specialized agencies, should have unimpeded access to Nagorno-Karabakh in order to live up to the commitment of leaving no one behind.

Second, in the spirit of the Convention, it remains an imperative to exclude politicization of humanitarian crises and the suffering of refugees. Under no circumstances should we tolerate instrumentalization of refugees and displaced persons for political objectives, whatever such objectives may be. Durable solutions must be framed and maintained as strictly humanitarian issues. This message is particularly important today when the world faces COVID-19 pandemic.

The Government of Armenia strongly acknowledges the value and the potential of refugees and displaced populations, their power of integration and contribution to all aspects of our public life. Refugees in Armenia have demonstrated extraordinary capacities of achieving self-reliance and progress in local integration. As just one example, relevant to present challenges, our compatriots, Syrian-Armenian women are producing masks and helping the Government to fight COVID-19.

Armenia strongly supports the United Nations Global Compact for Refugees. With its critical focus on inclusiveness, on multi-dimensional range of concerns, flexibility for cooperative action in the human dimension and unwavering determination of leaving no one behind, the Compact represents a valuable and highly relevant framework for global cooperation.

About a century ago a Danish missionary Karen Jeppe campaigned for introducing an item concerning economic support to the Armenian Genocide survivor refugees in the agenda of the League of Nations. Some observed that it was of so little use. Karen Jeppe delivered a very short yet most compelling response. She said: “Yes, it is only a little light, but the night is so dark.”

Thank you.

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