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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid