New York: Pakistan's Permanent Representative to UN Dr Maleeha Lodhi has urged international community to help the refugees living across the globe, recalling the burden borne by Pakistan in dealing with the protracted presence of Afghan refugees .

She was speaking at an event organized by Pakistan, at UN headquarters on the global plight of refugees and forced displacement today. At the event, Pakistan received praise for hosting millions of Afghan refugees for over three decades and for bearing this burden, despite its modest resources.

Aimed at shining a light on global issue of refugees and migrants and highlighting the urgency to respond to this unprecedented humanitarian crisis, the event attracted a large attendance. President-elect of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, and Under Secretary General Christina Gallach were also present. As were many Ambassadors and representatives of member nations, concerned UN agencies, academics and members of civil society and the media.

Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi said that the world was confronted with a humanitarian crisis of historic proportions – a global wave of displacement and forced migrations – in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, in East Asia and elsewhere. These massive human movements, she said, were the consequence of conflicts, persecution and poverty. 

Pakistan’s envoy highlighted the scale of human tragedy by quoting facts and figures. “The numbers and trend lines are grim if not alarming”, she said. The recent UNHCR Global Trends report has revealed that forced displacement has reached a record high of 60 million people globally – a 40 per cent increase in just three years. “Every day, she said,” a staggering number of people – 42,500 – are forced to leave their homes due to conflict and persecution”.

She said that more than half of the world’s refugees today are children, which is the highest figure in over a decade. Speaking about tragic loss of lives that has accompanied forced displacement, Ambassador Lodhi referred to the plight of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have been reported dead or missing as well as thousands of men, women and children who lost their lives and drowned in the Mediterranean. 

Ambassador Lodhi lamented that the international community has not acted effectively and decisively in the face of this humanitarian emergency. “The international community – to its shame – has ignored massive human suffering in the past. We are reminded of Rwanda and Srebrenica, among other crises. The current crisis of refugees could mark a new flag of shame”, she added.

“Unless addressed effectively, this multiple crisis could produce grave consequences for world order and security”, she warned. While questioning the lack of adequate and decisive humanitarian response to this unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe, Ambassador Lodhi apprised the participants of the way Pakistan responded to the massive influx of refugees from Afghanistan.

She said, “I would like to speak out today because, when confronted with a major refugee flow, my country, with modest resources, responded with much greater humanity and generosity than that we witnessing today”. 

She said that Pakistan remains the world’s second largest refugee-hosting country. “I would add that in terms of the protracted presence of refugees, it is still the world’s top refugee-hosting country”. Urging a “humane response” to the displaced people, Ambassador Lodhi said that those embarking on their journey of escape are desperate people, fleeing violence and poverty. “To ultimately prevent such mass movements, peace and prosperity need to be promoted globally and equitably”, she added.

She urged the President of General Assembly-elect to consider taking the debate on the plight of refugees and migrants to a larger platform. Apart from the panelists; Acting Director, UNHCR, Ms. Anne Eriksson, Permanent Observer of International Organization for Migration to UN, Mr. Ashraf El Nour, the countries which participated in the discussion included US, UK, Turkey, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Palestine, Bangladesh, Mynmaar and Denmark.