News

    'Refugees are Not Terrorists,' says UN Refugee Chief

    Multimedia

    Audio

    The new U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, is appealing to governments and the public not to assume asylum seekers and refugees are potential terrorists. In his first news conference in Geneva since assuming his post last month, Mr. Guterres also expressed concern about growing intolerance of refugees in Africa.

    The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, says he is stung by the extent to which refugees are being used as scapegoats and tarred with the terrorist brush. He says he is concerned with what he sees as confusion in public opinion that has caused refugees and asylum-seekers to suffer as a result of legitimate security concerns and the need to fight terror.

    The new refugee chief calls terrorism a major global threat that must be fought. But, he says the only way terrorism can be defeated is by promoting democracy and protecting human rights.

    "Refugees are not terrorists," he said. "Refugees are many times the first victims of terror. And, let us be frank, if one wants to be a terrorist and strike anywhere in the world, the most stupid way to try to do this is to enter that country seeking asylum. In many situations, you will probably be in jail. You will always have a very heavy scrutiny and if you want to be efficient as a terrorist, you need to act in an anonymous way."

    The High Commissioner says he is concerned that an increasing number of countries in Europe are shutting their doors to legitimate refugees, thereby putting their lives at risk. He says he is also concerned that some countries in Africa are turning their backs on asylum seekers.

    Mr. Guterres praises Africa, the poorest continent in the world, for its great and long-standing generosity to refugees. But, he says a number of incidents have taken place, which are cause for concern.

    "Some of them have forced us even to be very vocal condemning what has been done. And, we remain very concerned with the fact that specific situations of refoulement [forced repatriation], of asylum seekers being returned to the countries of origin, disregarding the concerns with their safety have taken place in Africa."

    Just last month, the government of Burundi forcibly deported some five thousand asylum-seekers to Rwanda. The Rwandans began fleeing to Burundi in March, citing fears and threats surrounding the local gacaca genocide tribunals.

    U.N. High Commissioner Guterres says rich countries must support Africa, which bears the heaviest refugee burden in the world. He says African operations, in general, are woefully under-funded. As a consequence, he says protection needs in places such as Sudan's conflict-ridden province of Darfur are not being met and important repatriation operations in southern Sudan, Burundi and elsewhere are in jeopardy.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora