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UN Geneva Press Briefing

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, which was attended by spokespersons and representatives from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Trade and Development and the World Meteorological Organization.

Shocking Needs of Refugees and Migrants on Routes from Africa to Europe

Vincent Cochetel, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean Situation, said that each year, hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants risked their lives to move on routes that extended from the East and Horn of Africa and West Africa towards North Africa’s Atlantic coast, and across the Central Mediterranean Sea to Europe. As well as Africans, there were also many refugees and migrants from Asia and the Middle East among those arriving in North Africa, coming from countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt and Syria.

The horrors faced by refugees and migrants along these routes were unimaginable. Tragically, many of them died while crossing the desert or near borders, and most of them suffered serious human rights violations en route, including sexual and gender-based violence, kidnappings for ransom, torture, physical abuse, arbitrary detention, trafficking in persons and collective expulsions. However, protection services which could help provide alternatives to dangerous journeys or mitigate the suffering of refugees and migrants along the routes they travel were severely lacking.

The findings of this third edition of UNHCR’s “Mapping for Protection Services Report, a routes-based approach to protection services along mixed movement routes” highlighted a significant discrepancy in the level of services provided on the different segments of the routes that had been mapped.

There were many reasons why people embarked on dangerous journeys; one was that sometimes, there were no protection services on the route. There was a huge discrepancy in the availability of these services in different countries. In many countries, services were not available, such as Morocco, Mauritania and Sudan. These were key hubs used by migrants and services needed to be located in these areas. Movement was not just towards Europe; there was also significant movement within Africa.

There was a lack of humanitarian services close to border areas and shelters for victims of violence. Humanitarian actors were not always partnering well with local authorities. The latter were on the ground and could be able to provide support services. States needed to understand the gaps in current services and work to address them.

UNHCR hoped that the report would help to make States aware of the shortcomings in support services. The report was also for humanitarian actors. It helped them locate areas where more services were needed. The report was further for refugees and migrants lost and stranded on those routes, providing information on services available along the routes. UNHCR was working to adapt its communication to reach these people.

Read the full press release here.

In response to questions, Mr. Cochetel said humanitarian partners had the right to be present in border areas to provide support, but they were not always there. In Niger, for example, there was a large route that had no support services. The report helped these persons to see where support was available and were more was needed.

Sudan and Syria were important countries on the route to Europe and had been afflicted by conflict, resulting in the displacement of many people. It was necessary to manage the movement of migrants in these countries. In Bangladesh, the movement of migrants was very organised. The response to migrant movements in different countries needed to be equalised. It was important to treat migrants from neighbouring countries with respect.

Water routes were particularly dangerous. The passage through Libya was important for reaching Europe. It was not easy to organise support services with local authorities in Libya. Work needed to be done to stabilise the situation in Libya to allow migrants to pass through safely.

Humanitarian assistance, including emergency shelter capacity and access to justice, was necessary for victims of trafficking, such as those who were abandoned by traffickers. Humanitarian actors who could identify victims of trafficking needed to be present on border areas. It was preferable for refugees to stay in countries close to their home countries, so that they could return when the security situation settled. Many persons made dangerous journeys, however, as they did not have another choice, due to the absence of support services in nearby countries.

Local authorities controlled their borders on migration routes and were aware of problems on those borders. It was possible to coordinate with those authorities without being present in the region.

The number of refugees registered did not always reflect the situation in the country, as some refugees moved through multiple countries without being registered. Furthermore, data was less frequently collected for routes headed south than for those headed north. Humanitarian actors could work with local authorities to strengthen the urgent assistance that they provided to persons in vulnerable situations.

Migration through to the Persian Gulf was very organised and generally legal. However, the route through the Sahara was very dangerous. The only country where desert rescues were conducted was in Djibouti by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Such desert search and rescue projects needed to be developed in partnership with local authorities in Nigeria, southern Morocco, Mauritania and other desert regions.

While there were certain countries hosting a considerable number of refugees around the Mediterranean basin, attention was often focused upon maritime movements. Regarding the case of a 2023 shipwreck in Greece that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of refugees, UNHCR was waiting for the Greek authorities to publish their findings on the incident in a report. States needed to assume responsibility for their actions, including in international waters.

There was a need to explain the difference between “refugees” and “migrants”, as not everyone was aware of it. Europe had a major role in providing protection to refugees from Africa and preventing them from becoming victims of trafficking. 


Catherine Huissoud for United Nations Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said UNCTAD had published a report entitled “A World of Debt” that examined the global impact of debt on development and presented a road map of multilateral actions to address the global debt burden and achieve sustainable development.

Developing countries were disproportionately affected by the surge in global public debt, which reached 97 trillion United States dollars (USD) in 2023. There were significant regional disparities, with a growing number of countries in Africa struggling under high debt burdens.

Reliance on external public debt in developing countries posed significant challenges, including the complexity of debt restructurings, increased debt service burdens, and outflows to creditors in times of crisis. Developing countries faced 49 billion USD in foreign exchange outflows in 2022.

High interest rates were straining the capacity of developing countries to finance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with 847 billion USD allocated to interest payments in 2023. In 49 countries, interest payments are greater than expenditures on education or health. These payments were also higher than investments in climate action in developing countries.

There was a pressing need for reform of the international financial architecture to address the challenges posed by debt and to mobilise adequate resources to finance the SDGs. Nearly 50 countries were explicitly calling for policy reforms to support sustainable development at the United Nations General Assembly.

The report was issued in the context of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s efforts to provide updated information and key findings on global debt ahead of the first meeting of the SDG Stimulus Group, which was to start tomorrow.

In response to questions, Ms. Huissoud said it was difficult to measure the loss of sovereignty linked to the growing public debt of affected countries, but that it could destabilise societies. She emphasised that financial stability was crucial for allowing democracy to prevail in a country.

The latest information on the 60th anniversary of UNCTAD would be sent on Friday this week. It was already known that the commemorative event would be attended by the heads of State of Madagascar, Cameroon and the Comoros, the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, the Vice-President of Costa Rica, the Federal Councillor of Switzerland, the Foreign Ministers of Capo Verde, Uganda, Nepal and Peru, and the Ministers of Commerce of Angola, Gabon, Kenya, Iran, Côte d'Ivoire, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia. The event would be broadcast on UN Web TV. Former Secretary-Generals of UNCTAD might not attend the event.

The report featured visualisations of the state of debt in countries around the world, including breakdowns by region. Reforming the financial system and the political system was needed to address the burden of global debt. Partnership among all countries and the political will of all members of society was necessary for driving this change.

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Geneva, said that as climate records were being shattered and emissions continued to rise, on Wednesday, 5 June, World Environment Day, at 4 p.m., the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres would deliver a pivotal speech, setting out some hard-hitting truths about the state of the climate, the grotesque risk leaders were running, and what companies and countries — particularly the G7 and the G20 — needed to do over the next eighteen months to salvage humanity’s chances of a liveable future. The Secretary-General would also share new data from the World Meteorological Organization, the Copernicus Climate Change Service, and the Indicators of Global Climate Change.

The speech would be held at the American Museum of Natural History and streamed live on UN Web TV

Clare Nullis for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the Secretary-General’s speech would make use of data from an upcoming WMO report on global climate predictions for next five years and annual temperature over past 12 months. WMO would hold a press conference on the report on Wednesday, 5 June at 3 p.m. Speaking would be Ko Barrett, WMO Deputy Secretary-General; Wilfran Moufouma Okia, WMO Senior Scientific Officer; and Carlo Buentempo, Director, European Union Copernicus Climate Change Service (via Zoom).

A background briefing on the statement of the Secretary-General and date from the WMO report would be held today, 4 June at 4 p.m. Geneva time. Journalists had to contact UNIS for registering.

All materials cited above were under embargo until after delivery of the Secretary-General’s climate action statement, at approximately 4:30 p.m. on 5 June 2024. 

Ms. Vellucci said that on Thursday, 6 June at 3:30 p.m., the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) would hold a press conference to launch its State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) 2024 report. Speaking would be Manuel Barange, FAO Assistant Director-General and Director of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Division. Coffee will be provided from 3 p.m. The report and the press conference would be under embargo until 7 June at 8 p.m. An advance copy of the report would be available to journalists. Globally, there would be two press events taking place for the launch of SOFIA 2024; one in Geneva and one in Costa Rica in Spanish.

To request an advance copy of the report and RSVP to participate in the launch, please contact Ki Min: ki.min@fao.org, +41 (0)79 571 5691.

On Monday, 10 June at 2 p.m., the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would hold a press conference to launch the annual report, Global Trends in Forced Displacement 2024. The report was under strict embargo until 13 June 2024 at 5:01 a.m. Speaking at the press conference would be Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and Tarek Abou Chabake, UNHCR Chief Statistician.

Ms. Vellucci apologised for issues regarding journalists’ access to the Palais des Nations last Saturday. For two weeks until 14 June, while the International Labour Conference was being held, the Pregny Gate would be open at 6:30 a.m. for vehicles and pedestrians, and close at 7 p.m. for pedestrians and 8 p.m. for vehicles. There had been no change to access via the Peace Gate and the Chemin de Fer Gate.

The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrants Workers and Members of their Families would start reviewing the report of Senegal, ending tomorrow morning, to be followed by Congo.

Next Thursday, 6 June, the Conference on Disarmament would hold a public meeting on its Agenda Item 6, “Comprehensive programme of disarmament” (10 a.m., Tempus). The meeting would be attended by the 2024 cohort of Disarmament Fellows.