“I just came back from a trip to Bangladesh, where they have a million refugees under terrible conditions,” said Filippo Grandi.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said there was currently no refugee crisis in Europe and Germany and reminded that the real crisis remains somewhere else.
“Of course, there was a crisis here when the great refugee influx came in 2015, mainly to Germany,” Grandi told the Germany newspaper Bild. “But the real refugee crisis were and still are in Africa, the Middle East, Asia.”
The head of the UNHCR also warned about the rhetoric of some right-wing European populists, such as the Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, that speak about emergencies related to refugees in the continent.
“I just came back from a trip to Bangladesh, where they have a million refugees under terrible conditions,” said Grandi. “They have an emergency there, but not in Europe!”
Bangladesh is currently going through a refugee crisis as a Muslim minority from Myanmar, the Rohingya, is running away from ethnic cleansing carried by their country of origin's security forces. Even though the exodus has been largely ignored by the media, it constitutes the world's worst refugee crisis and the Rohingya have been described as the world's 'most persecuted minority.'
Grandi also criticized the narrative of some that try to make the situation of refugees in Europe as an invasion.
“To say there's an invasion in Europe, that we're a continent threatened by people coming to take advantage of us, is deeply false.”
According to Grandi, this narrative is dangerous because it stigmatizes migrants, refugees and others while promoting hate, racism and xenophobia.
He also stated that not everyone emigrating to Europe were considered refugees, as many come hoping to find a job or wish for a better life quality.
“They come because there is a rich and a poor part of the world. The complicated thing is that both currents go together.”
Grandi hopes that Europe is able to improve the way it handles migration, making asylum processes more careful, efficient and quick, and sending those “not recognized as refugees” to their countries of origin in a human manner.
However, European countries often fail to have an adequate policy to decide in which cases an applicant can be considered a refugee, sending some back to the violence they were running from, such as the case of a 106-year-old Afghan woman who was denied asylum because her country of origin was not considered dangerous enough by Sweden.
The Aquarius Case
The high commissioner also called “immoral” the fact that the Aquarius boat had to wander in the Mediterranean with 141 rescued migrants on board while European governments fought over who should be responsible for them.
At the end, the refugee agency celebrated Malta's decision accept the boat and the governments of France, Spain, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal and Malta for taking in the Aquarius' refugees and about a hundred more.
European states must agree on a shared, predictable disembarkation mechanism for refugees and migrants rescued at sea. Meanwhile, it is wrong, dangerous and immoral to keep rescue ships wandering in the Mediterranean while governments compete on who takes least responsibility. pic.twitter.com/XKYk64p4xR— Filippo Grandi (@RefugeesChief) 14 de agosto de 2018
Grandi also called for a clear policy and mechanisms to avoid such situations in the Mediterranean, and asked captains to keep rescuing people from the sea.
Despite the fact that the number of migrants trying to reach Europe has been decreasing since 2016 (in 2017 there was 44 percent fewer asylum seekers than in 2016, and available data suggest this trend is continuing), the trips have become more fatal as governments impose tighter policies and conditions worsen.
The UNHCR's records state that more than 1,500 migrants have died in their journey across the Mediterranean in 2018, which amounts to one out of every 17 people crossing. On 2017, on the other hand, only one in every 43 crossing the sea died.