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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Head: Breach Won't Happen Again

Julia Pierson tells a House panel investigating a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid