Edited transcript of video statement by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi
“There is very little that one can say – these ruins speak for themselves. When you see children’s clothes hanging out of windows, kitchens cut in half by shells and rockets, the real lives of people interrupted by war as it was happening, I think this will weigh very heavily on the conscience of the world for generations.
But besides, we must think first that there are people here, some of them are returning to these ruins, who need help, immediate help. They are cold, they are hungry, they need to work to earn some money, they need the elementary things in life in this very ancient city. All of a sudden, they start again; I think we need to accelerate humanitarian assistance, we need resources for that. Irrespective of all the politics around this war, this is absolutely necessary and urgent for millions of people in Syria. We saw it in Damascus, we saw it in Homs, we see it in Aleppo, in many hard-to-reach and besieged areas of the country. So all the Syrian people need help. We cannot abandon them because the crisis is not over.
Peace has to come. A solid, viable peace that is accepted by all and that will allow reconstruction to begin. This is very important because the level of destruction is much bigger than I thought. And I have read and followed this war. I didn’t imagine it would be this widespread. You drive for miles and miles you see destroyed civilian houses, destroyed schools, destroyed hospitals. Everything has been ruined. There has to be massive investment here. But for this, you need stability. You need peace – [so we] hope that the current effort will be successful, but rapidly so because people here cannot wait any longer.
That message is very clear. Look at these ruins. The ruins of this war. This is what refugees from Syria, who are now denied entry [to the United States], have fled from. And it is not just here in Aleppo, although this is massive. Refugees from Somalia, refugees from Yemen, refugees from Iraq – they all flee from destruction like this, from devastation like this. How can we turn them back? How can we not consider giving them protection? At least, for the time while the conflict is continuing, this is what they are escaping from – millions of them.
The world has to go back to solidarity, has to think again. Not with fear, not with suspicion, but with open arms, with an open mind, with an open heart. They need help, they need protection while the war goes on. One day, they will come back here, and they will reconstruct these cities. But now, in their hour of need, we cannot ignore their plight – we need to help them.”
Photos and video from the High Commissioner’s visit to Aleppo are available on Refugees Media. Check back as more will be added later today.
A related multimedia story can be found here.