Responding to the ongoing clampdown in the US and other countries on the admission of foreign refugees fleeing persecution, death and displacement, United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres expressed concern over decisions taken around the world that can undermine the integrity of the international refugee protectionist regime.
“Refugees fleeing conflict and persecution are finding more and more borders closed and increasingly restricted access to the protection they need and are entitled to receive, according to international refugee law,” the UN chief said in a statement.
Guterres, who is returning to New York from a visit to Ethiopia, cited in the statement released by his office before his arrival yesterday, the case of the African country that has become the largest refugee hosting nation in Africa, and said Ethiopia “for decades has been keeping its borders open to hundreds of thousands of refugees from its neighbours, many times in dramatic security situations”.
While emphasising that countries have the right and the obligation to responsibly manage their borders to avoid infiltration by members of terrorist organisations, Guterres observed that this could not be based on any form of discrimination related to religion, ethnicity or nationality, noting that doing so “is against the fundamental principles and values on which our societies are based”.
Guterres also cautioned that such attempts could “trigger widespread anxiety and anger that may facilitate the propaganda of the very terrorist organisations “we all want to fight against” and that “blind measures, not based on solid intelligence, tend to be ineffective as they risk being bypassed by what are today sophisticated global terrorist movements”.
During a routine press briefing at the UN headquarters in New York, spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric stated that Guterres was on his way back to New York from the African Union Summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, and he had had the opportunity to express his disagreement with the United States Executive Order on refugees.
Guterres’ statement follows President Donald Trump’s signing last Friday of the Executive Order which, among other things, suspended the US refugee programme for 120 days and also bars entry of refugees from seven - mostly Muslim - countries, namely Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen until further notice.
Guterres’ remarks are also seen as lending weight to the “deep concern” already expressed by the UN Refugee Agency over the uncertainty facing thousands of refugees in the resettlement process in the United States after the country announced it was suspending refugee programmes last week.
The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement that more than 800 refugees were set to make America their new home this week alone, but were instead blocked from travelling to the US.