The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees on Monday said governments in many rich countries have adopted a “despicable” rhetoric on migration, as many ignore their duty to help people fleeing war or persecution.
Filippo Grandi told Reuters that economic migrants had different rights and needs from people fleeing war and persecution but they were often conflated in the eyes of the public, which saw them as a threat.
“First of all, the global figure has gone up again by a couple million. We are now at 68.5 million people displaced or refugees globally. Needless to say this is because of protracted conflicts. Now, governments should actually exercise leadership, provide good responses. It is possible, it is manageable. We are not talking about unmanageable numbers moving to the rich countries. But the contrary has happened, that governments have projected an image of emergency, of invasion, and actually, unfortunately, many political leaders have capitalized on that to gain votes. They have built fear to build their electoral bases. And I think that this is despicable and this is irresponsible”, Grandi said.
Now, governments should actually exercise leadership, provide good responses. It is possible, it is manageable.
On Tuesday, the UNHCR published its annual report which showed the global number of refugees grew by a record 2.9 million in 2017, to a total of 25.4 million, out of 68.5 million forcibly displaced either internationally or within their own countries.
Grandi said economic migrants had different rights and needs from people fleeing war and persecution but they were often conflated in the eyes of the public, which saw them as a threat.
He said at worse, some government have “built fear to build their electoral bases,” calling the practise “despicable” and “irresponsible.”
Some poorer countries like Bangladesh had gone beyond their international obligations by accepting huge numbers of refugees, while rich countries in Europe, as well as Australia and the United States, no longer stand up for refugees as they used to, Grandi said.
He said this set a negative example for poorer countries, who wondered why they should bear the burden.
The UNHCR tries to get rich countries to accept refugees after they have fled into overburdened places such as Lebanon, Jordan, Kenya or Pakistan.
Last year around 60,000 people profited from resettlement, which Grandi described as a “gesture of burden sharing.”