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United Nations in Bern Migration tops agenda at human rights meeting

Sommaruga, left, welcomed Al-Hussein in his first official visit to Bern 


The current United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has met with the Swiss president for their first official visit. The leaders discussed the need for coordinated action to address the refugee crisis facing Europe.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who has served as High Commissioner since last year, met with Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga on Tuesday in what marked his first official working visit to Bern.

Sommaruga said she was pleased that Switzerland had increased its commitment to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in recent years and emphasised the importance of keeping migration and human rights at the top of the OHCHR’s agenda.

She and Al Hussein agreed that the situation for migrants trying to reach Europe over the Mediterranean Sea demands coordinated action which must prioritise the protection of human life.

They also discussed the human rights situation in crisis-affected countries which asylum seekers are fleeing, such as Eritrea. Sommaruga emphasised Switzerland’s concern over the human rights violations taking place in those countries, adding that the situation had failed to improve in recent years.

Their meeting came on a day when the United Nations warned that Europe’s migration policy is flawed and that the European Union must come up with a better system for distributing migrants across the continent. Thousands continue to arrive every day, especially in countries like Italy, Greece and Hungary.

“We do not see any end to the flow of people…in the coming months,” a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees said on Tuesday.

Al Hussein and Yves Rossier of the Swiss foreign ministry also formalised Switzerland’s contribution to a new OHCHR office in Honduras. Switzerland has pledged CHF2.1 million ($2.2 million) from 2015-2017 for the project.

Switzerland is the host state of the Geneva-based OHCHR and also one of its principal donors, contributing almost CHF3 million in 2014. and agencies

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