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ASG Brands Kehris’ Participation in the Launch of the Global Framework for United Nations Support on Syria / Iraq Third Country Returnees

29 September 2021, 10:00-11:30

I would like to start by thanking Iraq, the Netherlands, UNICEF, the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism for organizing this important event.

The situation of the thousands of people, including third-country nationals, who are stranded in camps in north-eastern Syria and Iraq, remains desperate.

It is a complex and urgent crisis of overlapping humanitarian, human rights, and security concerns. If not addressed, the threat to peace and security posed by the situation in north-eastern Syria and Iraq will only further intensify.

The dire humanitarian conditions in the camps—lack of water, access to sanitation and health services, adequate shelter, education opportunities—have been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic and compounded by a very worrisome security situation. In 2021 alone, some 60 residents were reportedly killed in Al Hol camp.

The situation of women and children in displacement camps in North-East Syria is particularly grave. They are not allowed to leave Al Hol and do not face any criminal charges—they are left in legal limbo with limited access – if any – to consular services. Hundreds of boys continue to be held along with men in overcrowded prison facilities with limited access to food and medical care. Boys and girls in the camp are particularly vulnerable to violence and abuse.

The United Nations has repeatedly called upon States to address this humanitarian and human rights crisis while also ensuring solidarity in efforts to counter terrorism by assuming responsibility for their own nationals.

We recognize of course that repatriating third country nationals presents a range of multifaceted and difficult challenges.

We welcome a number of important recent efforts by States to repatriate their own nationals, and hope that the numbers of those repatriated will continue to grow.

In recognition of these challenges and with a view to finding durable solutions, the UN has developed an integrated approach designed to support States in the "Global Framework for UN Support on Syria/Iraq Third Country National Returnees".

The Global Framework, which OHCHR is part of, is an innovative and comprehensive initiative that brings together an array of UN entities to leverage their respective expertise and mandates to support Member States willing to take back their nationals, or who have already done so.

All participating entities have recognized the need for the Framework to be firmly anchored in human rights principles and gender mainstreaming at every stage of the returns process.

We are already pleased to be supporting Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Maldives, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan in this endeavour.

We hope that donors will come forward to help get this initiative up and running and that Member States in need of support will take up the UN offer of assistance in this area.

Thank you.