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UN: States Increasingly Using Refugees for Political Purposes

2017-10-07

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[00:00.00]
  • For years, people fleeing from war and oppression have sought asylum in nearby countries.
  • [00:08.50]
  • Now, the United Nations is warning that countries are increasingly using refugees as tools to support their local and national interests.
  • [00:21.50]
  • Filippo Grandi is the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
  • [00:30.58]
  • He says many refugees are being used as pawns as traditional guarantees of asylum appear to be breaking down.
  • [00:42.18]
  • Grandi spoke at the refugee agency’s annual conference this week in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • [00:51.13]
  • The UNHCR reports a record 65.6 million people had been forcibly displaced by war and persecution worldwide by the end of 2016.
  • [01:06.73]
  • This includes 22.5 million refugees who had crossed from one country to another.
  • [01:15.11]
  • The UNHCR reports that, in 2017 alone, more than two million people have fled their countries as refugees.
  • [01:27.55]
  • Grandi told the delegates that in just five weeks, 500-thousand Rohingya fled from violence in Myanmar.
  • [01:38.56]
  • During the same period, he noted, more than 50,000 people fled South Sudan, while 18,000 others were escaping clashes in the Central African Republic.
  • [01:53.01]
  • Grandi said that in some ways refugees have always been used for political purposes.
  • [02:01.03]
  • But he said the problem has worsened in recent years.
  • [02:06.22]
  • He said refugees have become a major issue in local and national politics and even in relationships between governments.
  • [02:17.55]
  • “Protection is constantly being tested. And, at times, it even seems that refugees have become a commodity, traded between states. Principled leadership has frequently given way to an erosion of refugee rights, driven by confused and sometimes frightened public opinions often stirred up by irresponsible politicians.”
  • [02:44.15]
  • Grandi told the conference that immigration and asylum policies have become more restrictive in some countries.
  • [02:53.78]
  • He said some countries that welcomed refugees in the past also have their own histories of exile and migration.
  • [03:04.33]
  • He added that refugee protection is weakening in many areas, including in industrialized countries.
  • [03:13.38]
  • He says protection of refugees is breaking down in traditional countries of asylum in Europe, the United States and Australia.
  • [03:25.10]
  • I’m Alice Bryant.
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