U.N.’s Ban tells refugee class of his own displaced childhood

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, visiting refugee families in Rome, calls Europe’s escalating refugee situation a “crisis of global solidarity”.

ROME, ITALY (OCTOBER 17, 2015) (REUTERS) – United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday (October 17) called on the European Union to continue to work together to manage its worst migrant crisis since World War Two.

Ban Ki-moon praised the bloc’s efforts to tackle what he described as a global phenomenon.

The U.N. chief was on a visit to the Catholic NGO community of Sant’ Egidio in Rome, which works closely with migrants and refugees.

With his wife Yoo Soon-Taek, he spent time with families in the community’s refugee shelter.

Speaking to the children in the shelter, Ban Ki-moon reminded them that he has been a refugee himself during the Korean War.

“There was a big and very terrible Korean war. In 1950. Because my village was bombed and destroyed, I had to flee my village,” the U.N. Secretary General said.

“Having met all these children and family members and women, I was very much sad. But I was also very much heartened by the stories that they told me; the stories were heartbreaking. At the same time, I really wanted to give them a sense of hope,” Ban Ki-moon said at a news conference after meeting with the refugees.

Ban also urged for European countries to come together to tackle the migrant crisis, despite the challenges they were facing.

“The number of refugees – this is not a crisis of numbers – if there is any crisis, this is a crisis of global solidarity,” Ban said.

The U.N. Secretary General also took the opportunity to praise U.S. President Barack Obama for his decision not to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

“I welcome that decision, because then maybe one of the ways at this time – a practical measure to keep political stability, to keep people from these terrorist attacks. Otherwise there will be many Afghan people who will have to flee their communities,” Ban said.

He made the comments the day after a summit of EU leaders in Brussels, the fourth in six months to be dominated by the more than half a million people who have come to Europe this year fleeing war and poverty in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

Italy sent a small group of Eritrean asylum seekers to Sweden earlier in October, kicking off an EU-wide relocation programme aimed at easing the burden on border states.