UN official calls refugee crisis ‘crisis of values’

Geneva, Oct 9 (IANS) A top international protection expert for the UN refugee agency UNHCR on Thursday warned of growing risks of the lack of commitment from governments worldwide to the core human rights and rule of law principles and called the current refugee crisis “a crisis of values”.

In a speech to UNHCR’s annual Executive Committee meeting, Volker Turk, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, described a troubled global landscape of increased war and conflict and worsening humanitarian environment.

“Push-backs, building walls, increasing detention, and further restricting access, combined with few legal avenues to safety, will never be the answer,” he said.

According to him, the phenomenon of people arriving in one place of refuge and then moving on out of desperation to others has come into sharp focus in 2015 with the well-over 500,000 sea arrivals seen in Europe, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere.

Turk paid tribute to what he called the “remarkable outpouring of public compassion and a groundswell of public support” seen in Europe and elsewhere this year in response to such arrivals, especially the many instances of people inviting refugees to stay in their homes or tourists handing out emergency care.

But he warned that with the rapidly rising numbers of refugees and migrants in Europe and continued increases in the numbers of forcibly displaced people globally, today’s biggest challenge had become “populist politics and toxic public debates, and the climate of fear they engender.”

“This is often fuelled and abetted by irresponsible media reporting, lack of political and moral leadership, and xenophobia and racism,” he said, adding that all of this suggests that the more fundamental crisis that we are facing today is “a crisis of values”.

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