Filippo Grandi, the head of the UNHCR, warned that the deadly attack in Christchurch, New Zealand was the result of the worst toxicity in politics and media toward refugees, migrants and foreigners that he had witnessed in more than 30 years.
Grandi told the U.N. Security Council that the state of discussions globally about refugees and migrants “should be of concern to us all.” He did not specifically blame anyone.
“I have never seen such toxicity, such poison in the language of politics, in media, in social media, even in everyday discussions and conversations around this issue,” Grandi told the 15-member council during a meeting on the global refugee situation.
On the other hand, Grandi described the response by the people and leadership of New Zealand as “exemplary.”
Conflicts, Grandi pointed out, are the main drivers of refugee flows: of the nearly 70 million people that are displaced, most are escaping deadly fighting.
The UN refugee chief cited the example of Libya.
The security conditions, said Grandi, are “at breaking point”: on Tuesday, the Agency relocated more than 150 refugees from an area heavily impacted by military clashes, the first such relocation since the recent escalation of violence. UNHCR’s view is that conditions in the fractured nation are not safe for rescued or intercepted refugees and migrants, and that these people should not be returned there.
With several staff removed from the country for safety reasons, the UNHCR’s work is “very, very difficult and dangerous.”
The Security Council must, he said, take unified action to end the current military escalation, issue a strong call to spare civilians, including refugees and migrants trapped in the country, and take steps to address the causes of conflict, a necessity if further violence and subsequent displacement, is to be avoided.
The use of the Libyan coastguard was dismissed by Grandi as an ineffective rescue service, and he condemned the “horrific, unacceptable” conditions for refugees and migrants held in detention camps.