Switzerland: Divisive political rhetoric, xenophobia threaten refugees - UNHCR

Geneva, Switzerland (PANA) - The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, against the tragic backdrop of forced displacement reaching unprecedented levels, divisive political rhetoric on asylum and migration issues, and disturbing levels of xenophobia, are together threatening the international agreements which protect those forced to flee war or persecution.

In a statement on Monday on World Refugee Day 2016, he said: "Instead of burden sharing, we see borders closing, instead of political will there is political paralysis. And humanitarian organisations like mine (UNHCR) are left to deal with the consequences, while at the same time struggling to save lives on limited budgets."

The UNHCR says the number, complexity and protracted nature of today’s conflicts mean that forced displacement has now reached a level unprecedented since the founding of the UN itself as substantially over 60 million people are now uprooted around the world.

"Each day another refugee tragedy is played out in the media; of children, mothers and fathers losing their lives in a desperate bid to escape violence," Mr Grandi said.

However, he said, there is cause for hope, adding  in contrast to the toxic narrative repeatedly played out in the media we have often witnessed an outpouring of generosity; by host communities, by individuals, and by families opening their homes."

Mr Grandi said these ordinary people see refugees not as beggars, competitors for jobs, or terrorists -but as people like you or me whose lives have been disrupted by war.  "Their simple acts of solidarity are going on around the world, every day."  

He said UNHCR sees 2016 as a "watershed moment" for the refugee cause. "As wars spiral out of control we feel this must be a year to take collective responsibility and action to end the conflicts which force people to flee and also to help the millions of people whose lives have been destroyed by this violence."

Mr Grandi said world leaders can no longer watch passively as so many lives are needlessly lost. "We must be smart about finding solutions to help refugees. We must find humane and dignified means to ensure refugees don’t risk their lives and those of their families by resorting to ruthless traffickers or by boarding flimsy boats in a bid to reach safety."

He said an historic United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants on 19 September will put us all to the test.  

"Will governments rise to the occasion and make new commitments to share responsibility for refugees in a spirit of global solidarity, in line with the fundamental principles of international refugee law? And furthermore, commit  to doing our fair share to deliver for people forced to flee their homes, and have lost everything through no fault of their own?" Mr Grandi asked.  

"UNHCR stands together #WithRefugees, on World Refugee Day and every day - and on 19 September we want the world to stand with us. By doing so we can send a message to world leaders they must act," he added.

A statement issued by the World Refugee Agency on Monday said its annual Global Trends report, which tracks forced displacement worldwide based on data from governments, partners including the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, and the organization’s own reporting, shows that 65.3 million people were displaced as of the end of 2015, compared to 59.5 million just 12 months earlier. This is the first time that the threshold of 60 million has been crossed.

It said the total of 65.3 million comprises 3.2 million people in industrialized countries who as of end 2015 were awaiting decisions on asylum (the largest total UNHCR has recorded), 21.3 million refugees worldwide (1.8 million more than in 2014 and the highest refugee total since the early 1990s), and 40.8 million people who had been forced to flee their homes but were within the confines of their own countries (an increase of 2.6 million from 2014 and the highest number on record).

"Measured against Earth’s 7.349 billion population, these numbers mean that 1 in every 113 people globally is now either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee – a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent. In all, there are more forcibly displaced people today than the populations of the United Kingdom, France or Italy," UNHRC said.
-0- PANA MA 20June2016

20 june 2016 10:10:04

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