NEW YORK - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday said they were taking a momentous step today by adopting ‘New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants’ to reaffirm their commitment to refugee and migrant communities across the world.

Nawaz underscored the need for addressing the root causes of ongoing displacement and forced migration to ensure that the people fleeing their homes do not become victims of political expediency. “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 added.

Addressing UN Summit on ‘Large-Scale Movement of Refugees and Migrants’, the prime minister said it was now the challenge to translate this noble initiative into reality. “The large influx of refugees and migrants into Europe has invited a renewed focus on their plight. 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,” he remarked.

The prime minister said, “The developing countries like Pakistan continue to be on the forefront of bearing the burden of the large-scale global human displacements. Pakistan welcomed this historic high-level meeting on large-scale movement of refugees and migrants, which is one of the most urgent humanitarian challenges of our times.”

“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 displaced people 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,” he asserted.

“The ‘Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework’ adopted along with the Declaration provides a useful starting point. We must build it on this momentum,” the premier argued.

The prime minister said Pakistan had served millions of Afghan refugees as a generous host for nearly four decades. “This is the largest protracted refugee situation in the world. Even today, we are hosting over 2.5 million Afghan refugees,” he concluded.

“Despite our modest resources, the people of Pakistan opened their hearts to their Afghan brothers and sisters,” Prime Minister Sharif said, pointing out that the current Afghan refugees total 2.5 million.

“While financial support from the international community has waned, Pakistan’s hospitality has not,” he said.

“Pakistan supports the safe and dignified return of all Afghan refugees to their homeland, in a sustainable manner. We count on the active support of our Afghan brothers and international partners in creating a conducive environment, to achieve this outcome,” he 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,” he said.

Noting that much of this displacement has neither been voluntary nor orderly, Nawaz said that the 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 the international community must now forge a comprehensive global compact on the large-scale movement of refugees and migrants; a compact based on fair and equitable burden sharing; a compact that provides greater avenues for legal migration; and takes a holistic view of the situation.

“Today, we have a similar opportunity; to help create a world, where nobody is left behind, in our shared quest for human dignity, he stated.”