News / Africa

Refugee Protection at Risk

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres gestures during an address to the UNHCR Executive Committee in Geneva October 3, 2011.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres gestures during an address to the UNHCR Executive Committee in Geneva October 3, 2011.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, is asking nations to keep their borders open to people fleeing war, persecution and destitution. Guterres says he is concerned about growing anti-foreigner sentiment at a time of increasing refugee emergencies.

The high commissioner spoke at the opening of the UNHCR’s annual refugee conference in Geneva.

Challenging year

This year, the U.N. refugee agency is commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. These anniversaries are taking place against the backdrop of what the High Commissioner for Refugees calls an extremely challenging year.

Ethnic Gueres carry a dead relative inside a temporary refugee camp set up at a Catholic church in Duekoue, Ivory Coast, May 2011.
Ethnic Gueres carry a dead relative inside a temporary refugee camp set up at a Catholic church in Duekoue, Ivory Coast, May 2011.

Antonio Guterres says the quick succession of three major emergencies in the past year have tested the ability of the UNHCR and other agencies to respond to the overwhelming needs of millions of people.  

He notes more than 200,000 refugees fled Ivory Coast in the wake of disputed elections at the end of 2010 and hundreds of thousands of others have become internally displaced.

This was followed by the dramatic events in North Africa. He notes hundreds of thousands of people have become uprooted, and subjected to violence and human rights abuses in the upheaval stemming from the so-called Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Worst expected

But, he says, the worst was yet to come.

“As drought continued to worsen amid the decades-old conflict in Somalia, more than 270,000 people fled the country, bringing the total number of Somali refugees in the region to a staggering 900,000," said Guterres. "Another 1.5 million are internally displaced. This means nearly a third of the entire population of Somalia has been forced from their homes.”

Guterres calls the drought in the Horn of Africa, which is affecting more than 12 million people, a humanitarian crisis of unimaginable proportions.

Generosity

He praises the generosity of countries such as Tunisia and Egypt, Italy and Malta, Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen for keeping their borders open to asylum seekers desperately seeking refuge.

Newly arrived refugees wait to be registered at a refugee camp in Dadaab, near Kenya's border with Somalia, August 29, 2011.
Newly arrived refugees wait to be registered at a refugee camp in Dadaab, near Kenya's border with Somalia, August 29, 2011.

At the same time, he notes global protection for refugees is slipping away with the rise of racism, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance.

“In anxious times such as the ones we are living in, messages of otherness and exclusion play on common fears of the new and unfamiliar," added Guterres. "High levels of anti-foreigner feelings in many states where they arrive pose a real threat to the lives and well-being of refugees, and undermine the universal values of tolerance and respect for human dignity.”

Guterres agrees governments must address the legitimate security, social and economic concerns of their citizens.  But, he says refugees, people who are forced to flee their homes because of conflict, drought and food insecurity, must not become collateral damage of anti-immigrant attitudes and policies.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More