NEW YORK: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Monday welcomed the historic high level meeting on large-scale movement of refugees and migrants, which is among the most urgent humanitarian challenges of the times.

PM Nawaz Sharif who is on visit to US to attend the United Nation General Assembly session while addressing the meeting at New York said, “We are meeting at a critical juncture, with the number of people forcibly displaced from their homes, reaching a record high and human suffering at an unprecedented level. Much of this displacement has neither been voluntary nor orderly. People have been fleeing from desperate conditions of conflict, war or poverty. These hapless people on the move deserve compassion and humane treatment.”

He said that for millions of such people across the world, this high-level meeting offers the promise of hope and we must not fail them.

“We are taking a momentous step today. By adopting the ‘New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants’, we are reaffirming our commitment to refugee and migrant communities across the world”, he added.

The PM further said that the challenge now is to translate this noble initiative into reality.

He said that the large influx of refugees and migrants to Europe has brought renewed focus to their plight, adding that the shocking images of ‘refugees in flight’ across the Mediterranean have shaken the conscience of the world. Yet, the true scale of this crisis lies beyond these headlines.

PM Nawaz said that it is the developing countries, including Pakistan that continue to be at the forefront of bearing the burden of large-scale global human displacements. Many of these protracted displacement situations have created complex political, socio-economic, security and environmental challenges for host countries and local communities, he maintained.

He said, “It is time for the international community to forge a comprehensive global compact on the large-scale movement of refugees and migrants; a compact based on fair and equitable burden sharing; that aims to ensure that the displaced do not become victims of xenophobic attitudes and political expediency; a compact that provides greater avenues for legal migration; and takes a holistic view of the situation.”

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that the ‘Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework’ adopted along with the Declaration, provides a useful starting point, adding we must build on this momentum.

Going forward, we must also address the root causes of displacement and forced migration. Unless we resolutely put out the fires that have caused so much suffering, we will not be able to find a long-term solution to this crisis, he stated.

He said, for nearly four decades, Pakistan has served as a generous host to millions of Afghan refugees. This is the largest protracted refugee situation in the world. Even today, we are hosting over 2.5 million Afghan refugees.

“Despite our modest resources, the people of Pakistan opened their hearts to their Afghan brothers and sisters. While financial support from the international community has waned, Pakistan’s hospitality has not.”

PM Nawaz said that Pakistan supports the safe and dignified return of all Afghan refugees to their homeland, in sustainable manner.

He said, “We count on the active support of our Afghan brothers and international partners in creating a conducive environment, to achieve this outcome. We hope that the international community will step forward and provide necessary resources to UNHCR in a timely manner, to support the sustainable return and reintegration of the Afghan refugees.”

He said Sixty-five years ago, the architects of the UN Convention on Refugees, had gathered here in New York. They had a ‘pious hope’ that the foundation that they were laying would have value ‘exceeding its contractual scope’, in setting a normative standard to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Today, we have a similar opportunity; to help create a world, where no one is left behind, in our shared quest for human dignity, he added.