The global asylum system is under attack, UN chief says
December 17 2019 06:26 PM
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi (L) and United Nations Secretary-Genera
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi (L) and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speak as they attend a press conference during the opening of the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva


Those who seek safety from war and persecution are threatened by a hostile political environment, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday, marking the first anniversary of the United Nation's global refugee pact.

‘At a time when the right of asylum is under attack, when so many doors are closed to refugees and when so many refugee children are detained and separated from their families, we must reaffirm their human rights,’ Guterres said at the Global Refugee Forum, a high-level UN meeting in Geneva.

More than 1,000 government and business delegates convened in the Swiss city to discuss the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees, which was adopted by UN members last year to ease the burden on host countries, to boost refugees' self-reliance, and to create legal migration paths.

‘It is time to give up a model of support that too often meant putting the lives of refugees on hold for decades: confined to camps, living day by day, without being able to flourish or make a contribution to society,’ Guterres said.

An estimated 71 million people around the world have been uprooted, with 25 million of them living as refugees outside their country, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for a fairer distribution of refugees among nations in Geneva.

‘Among the countries of this world, only 20 per cent are willing at all to take in refugees,’ he told German broadcaster ZDF.

Nine of the 10 countries that take in the most refugees are low or middle-income nations, he noted.

Industrialized countries must do more, Maas said. ‘We need international scholarship programmes that give refugees a chance to apply their skills,’ he told the German RND media group. Germany has taken on ‘far more’ responsibility than others recently, he told ZDF.

German Development Minister Gerd Mueller said refugees can be supported more effectively in their host and origin countries, adding: ‘That is why it is a scandal that the UN Refugee Agency has this year only received just over half of the funds it needs for its work.’

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