UNHCR Standing Committee – Agenda item 3 – Regional update on Europe – Statement by Estonia – delivered by H.E. Ambassador Riia Salsa-Audiffren – 14 March 2024

Thank you, chair.

Estonia aligns itself with the statement delivered by the EU.

It is a challenging time for Europe. We are deeply concerned as some 270,000 refugees and migrants arrived on Europe’s shores in 2023 – a 69 per cent increase compared to 2022. We are saddened by the 3,840 deaths recorded along the primary sea routes. This is a prime example that we need to do more, to mitigate the impact of climate change and address root causes.

It has now been 10 years since the beginning of Russia’s brutal aggression against Ukraine – Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula around this time in 2014. Today, Russia has illegally occupied and annexed about 17% of the territory of Ukraine. The UN has verified over 30 thousand civilian casualties, including almost 2000 children. Millions of Ukrainians have been forced to leave their homes and their country. It is entirely unacceptable to see the loss of innocent lives, as well as attacks on hospitals, education facilities and other civilian structures.

The war of aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation is a grave violation of the UN Charter and International Law. The devastating consequences of this aggression – not only for Europe but globally – cannot be overstated. Estonia condemns the war of aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation in the strongest terms possible. We reiterate the utmost importance of abiding by international norms and full, unhindered humanitarian access must be guaranteed. Humanitarian workers should be able to do their work in security and not fear for their lives.