During his first visit to Germany since taking up his post, the new UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, thanked Germany for its leading humanitarian role. He said that as the fifth largest donor to the UNHCR and, in particular, in light of the assistance provided for Syria and the region, Germany was making a valuable contribution. Foreign Minister Steinmeier expressed his hope that further aid convoys could soon be sent to Syria.
Humanitarian engagement in challenging times
Filippo Grandi stated at the joint press conference that he had contacted Foreign Minister Steinmeier directly after taking up office. For, he went on to say, in view of 60 million refugees around the world, Germany was playing an outstanding role with its humanitarian engagement. The German contribution of 140 million euros towards the UNHCR budget was, he commented, one of the five largest in the world ‑ and this funding was to be increased for 2016.
Assistance on the ground rather than flight to Europe
These funds, which are being used in particular to help people in crisis regions, will also help stem the flows of refugees around the world. One example of this is Germany’s engagement for Syria and the region. At a donor conference in London on 4 February, which Germany co-hosted, the German Government pledged 2.3 billion euros in aid to provide for the victims of the Syrian civil war in their own region, so that as many as possible are spared the perilous journey to Europe.
Germany to provide long-term assistance
Foreign Minister Steinmeier thanked his guest for the work done by UNHCR: “Given the difficult nature of these tasks, we are grateful that you and your staff have done such valuable work ‑ under difficult conditions in Syria, in neighbouring countries and along the refugee routes.” He went on to say that as a long-term donor Germany wanted to offer not only money but also planning certainty.
Bombardment of schools and hospitals
Looking at the current situation in Syria, Steinmeier expressed his dismay that a new nadir had been reached with the recent bombardment of schools and hospitals. He went to say that it was therefore now all the more important that the commitments made in Munich were implemented. This also meant it was crucial to “initially bring about de-escalation and a reduction in the violence now and then ultimately begin serious talks on a ceasefire”, Steinmeier added.
Aid convoys on their way to Syria
With regard to humanitarian access ‑ also part of the Munich commitments ‑ there are already some first positive signs. Steinmeier said that in the night from Saturday to Sunday (14 February), it had been possible to send an initial aid convoy to the besieged Syrian town of Duma. And following the ongoing talks of UN Special Envoy Staffan De Mistura in Damascus there was hope, Steinmeier said, that further large-scale aid convoys consisting of more than 100 lorries would be able to reach beleaguered civilians in Syria.