At California School Event for Resettled Refugee Children, Secretary-General Stresses Building Bridges, Not Walls

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to a back-to-school event for resettled refugee children, in Los Angeles today:

Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for your welcome. I am honoured to be with you. I thank Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation for hosting this event and for engaging Americans on the refugee crisis through their exhibit REFUGEE.

I also want to recognize the UN Association of the United States, the International Rescue Committee, and all the partners with us today – including Ido Leffler of Yoobi.

Representative Ted Lieu, thank you for joining us – and for your leadership in Congress and here in California.

Finally, my thanks to all of the agencies and local organizations and other partners – and a special word of gratitude to the volunteers helping refugees to adjust to their new lives.

I have just had the chance to sit down and hear the stories of a number of resettled refugee families. I have done the same in many places around the world from Kenya to Greece and from Turkey to Spain. I was deeply moved by the struggles and hopes I heard from families today. They fled very difficult situations. They now call California home.

I want to thank the people of the United States for their generosity – and in particular the people of Los Angeles and California as a whole. California is the top state in receiving resettled refugees – and you are stronger and more dynamic for it. I am especially pleased we are focusing today on refugee children.

The refugee crisis is a crisis of children. More than half of refugees and displaced people worldwide are under 18.

To the young people here today, I have a special message. I myself was once a displaced person. I did not flee my country, but my family and I were driven out of our village by war – the Korean war. I was only 6 years old.

Everything was destroyed. The United Nations came to our rescue. They gave us food. They gave us shelter. They gave us school supplies. Now I am here as the head of the United Nations to give school supplies to you.

If I could do it, you can do it. Have hope. Study hard. Be a full part of your new communities. I have faith in you.

I want you to know that I am working hard for other refugee families around the world. On 19 September, at UN Headquarters we will convene a UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants where Governments will agree that refugee children should go to school as soon as possible after arrival in the country that gives them asylum.

I encourage countries like the United States to continue to demonstrate leadership by providing safe haven to more refugees – including Syrian refugees.

My thanks once again to everyone.

Let’s keep reaching out a helping hand to people in their time of need. Let’s never give in to the forces of fear and division. Let’s welcome people into their new communities as neighbours and friends. Let’s build bridges, not walls.

We will all be stronger for it. That’s the California story. That’s the American story. Thank you for helping to write a new chapter today.

Source: United Nations