Statement — 21 March 2022
The World Refugee & Migration Council is appalled by Russian barbarism in violation of international humanitarian law and human rights in Ukraine, which is causing the worst refugee crisis in modern European history. Russia has shown a total disregard for Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence, and its leadership must be held accountable for the crime of aggression.
Adhere to Humanitarian Principles
The parties to the conflict in Ukraine must adhere to international humanitarian law by ensuring the protection of the civilian population and detainees and refraining from unlawful attacks. Weapons such as cluster bombs and thermobaric munitions should not be used because of their indiscriminate effects. The critical infrastructure necessary for basic human survival, such as water, gas, and electricity, should not be targeted by kinetic or non-kinetic, i.e., cyber, means. Humanitarian and aid workers should be protected so that they can assist civilians in dire circumstances.
Well-recognized humanitarian principles also dictate that assistance should be distributed impartially based on need. Since women-headed households with children represent the majority of the displaced, humanitarian relief and efforts must pay close attention to their particular needs and vulnerabilities and ensure that children are not exploited but afforded proper protection.
Because the United Nations’ relief agencies and other organizations with global reach are already strained by humanitarian operations in other parts of the world, it is vital that the critical needs of refugees and displaced persons there are not ignored as attention focuses on Europe.
Deploy UN Peacekeepers to Safeguard Humanitarian Corridors
A Uniting for Peace resolution should be passed by the UN General Assembly, providing for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force to safeguard humanitarian corridors in Ukraine.
Repurpose Frozen Assets to Help Ukrainians through a Global Trust Fund
Accountability begins by confiscating the funds of Russia’s leadership that are held overseas and placing them in a global trust fund to help the Ukrainian people. The Frozen Assets Repurposing Act (FARA) before the Parliament of Canada is a valuable model for other countries to emulate. NATO countries and other democracies should convene a meeting of their foreign ministers to collaborate on creating such a fund.
As the plight of Ukrainians inside the country and those forced to flee across Ukraine’s borders worsens by the hour, the international community must greatly intensify its efforts to assist the people of Ukraine and those countries hosting refugee populations.
Responsibility sharing principles in the UN Refugee Compact must apply to this unprecedented crisis. Assistance must be given on equal terms to all those forcibly displaced regardless of their nationality. There must be an effective degree of harmonization of relief and resettlement programs.
We applaud the generosity of Ukraine’s neighbours in keeping their borders open for Ukrainians and third-country nationals so they can find a safe haven. We also applaud the European Union’s decision to invoke the Temporary Protection Directive to enable Ukrainians to remain and work in the EU for three years and provide third-country nationals time to relocate.
The international community must ensure that Ukraine’s neighbours, especially Poland, receive the assistance they need to help the refugees and local communities hosting them.
A Global Conference & Action Plan on Food and Health Security
We are seeing the ripple effects of this conflict on other countries worldwide. Many developing countries are destined to experience critical food shortages as Russia and Ukraine’s production and other grains are affected by this conflict. Food shortages in North Africa and the Middle East can be expected to contribute to further flights of people from this region to Europe. Accordingly, we urge the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to convene a conference of all major food producers immediately and develop a concrete plan to assist those countries suffering from food shortages.
As a new strain of COVID emerges in Europe, the impact on the health requirements of refugees and their host communities should also be central to humanitarian relief and resettlement efforts.
Ending the War in Ukraine
The top priority for the United Nations, Ukraine and Russia, and other members of the international community must be the immediate resolution of this conflict. We urge the Secretary-General to use his good offices to press Russia to withdraw from Ukraine and engage in good faith efforts to resolve the crisis.
About the World Refugee & Migration Council The World Refugee & Migration Council was formed in May 2017, initially as the World Refugee Council, under the leadership of former Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy and with the support of the Government of Canada. The Council is an independent global body composed of more than 20 political leaders, policy advisers, academic experts, a Nobel prize winner, civil society actors, and human rights activists worldwide. In its major report, A Call to Action: Transforming the Global Refugee System, the Council seeks to strengthen the global response beyond the United Nations and its Global Compacts on refugees and migration.