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Statement by Ambassador Bathsheba Crocker at the UNHCR 86th Standing Committee
March 7, 2023

Statement by Ambassador Bathsheba CrockerUNHCR 86th Standing Committee

Regional Update on Europe

Chair, the United States joins colleagues in expressing our condolences for the loss of life and devastation caused by the recent earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, including the loss of UNHCR staff.  We encourage UNHCR to continue to support recovery efforts, and to advocate for the inclusion of refugees and migrants in assistance provided by the government of Türkiye.  The United States is expediting those in our resettlement queue impacted by the earthquake where possible.  We announced an additional $100 million of humanitarian assistance in response to the earthquakes, bringing our total contribution to $185 million to date.

We commend Türkiye for hosting over four million refugees, more than any other country.  We encourage close cooperation between Türkiye and UNHCR to ensure the most vulnerable refugees, including non-Syrians, are registered and referred to appropriate services, and integrated into national systems.  We are concerned by reports of pushbacks at Türkiye’s border with Iran and of increased calls for refugee returns to Syria when UNHCR has clearly stated Syria is not safe for large-scale returns.  We encourage UNHCR to continue to engage with the government on upholding Turkish migration law, finding durable solutions that respect the principle of non-refoulement, and maintaining protections for refugees in Türkiye.

Chair, we recently marked a grim milestone of one year since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.  We deplore the catastrophic impact of the war on so many, both within and outside Ukraine.

We call on Russia to immediately cease its unlawful use of force against Ukraine, withdraw its troops from Ukraine’s territory, and bring an end to its war.  We continue to call on Russia to abide by its obligations under the Geneva Conventions by allowing access to prisoners of war and civilians held by Russia’s forces.

We also call on Russia to allow immediate access to children and others who have been taken to Russia-occupied territories of Ukraine and to Russia itself.  We call on Russia to abide by its international obligations to respect and protect civilians, including aid workers, and to allow all civilians unhindered access to assistance and protection.

The United States is grateful to UNHCR for its critical efforts in Ukraine and throughout Europe to protect the vulnerable, provide life-saving assistance, and strengthen integration of refugee and asylum seekers.

Since February 24, 2022, the United States has provided more than $1.9 billion in humanitarian assistance to support vulnerable populations and communities inside Ukraine and in the region.

We continue to work with our European Allies and partners who are at the forefront of this response and who have opened their borders and communities to those fleeing Russian aggression.  We applaud their generosity and compassion.  As with any refugee situation, we will continue to call on the international community to respond to the needs of those seeking protection, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, or sexual orientation and gender identity, in ways consistent with the principle of non-refoulement and in accordance with states’ respective obligations under international law.