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

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters 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.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs