(Reuters) – The UN refugee agency has praised advanced countries’ response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis and urged them to do the same towards refugees from other war zones, regardless of their background. nationality, race or religion.
The number of people fleeing Ukraine since Russia’s February 24 invasion has soared to more than 3 million in what has become Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II.
The vast majority have been welcomed with assistance and the possibility of temporary residence and access to employment in countries bordering Ukraine, with a significant number beginning to move further west.
Some human rights groups and Arab refugees have opposed the Western reaction to the way Europe sought to hold back Syrian and other refugees in 2015. About 12 million Syrians have been uprooted by the war.
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The UN refugee agency told Reuters it was “deeply concerned about the rise in xenophobia, discrimination and exclusion” against refugees and asylum seekers in recent years. years and saw the refugee crisis in Ukraine as an opportunity for reflection.
“We welcome this tremendous welcome and solidarity towards refugees over the past few days and hope it can inspire reflection and change from some of the toxic narratives and policies we have seen in a number of contexts,” said Kathryn Mahoney, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
“UNHCR continues to advocate for access to protection for all who seek it, including those from Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia and other countries and regions, based on countries’ international obligations. asylum to protect refugees.
The agency advocates for access to asylum for all refugees, she added in an interview this week.
She said the agency was in talks with countries like Britain, the United States and in Europe about their refugee policies.
“For example, we have repeatedly called for an end to the practice of ‘refoulements’ – preventing refugees from entering the territory of a particular country,” Mahoney said.
The European Union has said it will grant Ukrainian refugees the right to stay and work in the bloc for up to three years.
Judith Sunderland, associate director of the Europe and Central Asia division of advocacy group Human Rights Watch, said refugee policies toward Ukrainians “stand in stark contrast to the policies and practices we continue to see toward migrants. and refugees from other parts of the world, most of them brown and black.”
Mahoney said the UN refugee agency welcomed the EU’s decision, adding there was an urgent need for states to respond similarly to other “serious” displacement situations and “unresolved” caused by the humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, Syria and Ethiopia, among others.
“For asylum seekers who are not covered by its scope, it is crucial that EU Member States and other countries of asylum continue to admit them to their territory, to assess the applications individuals and to grant international protection where it is needed,” she said.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay, Michael Shields and Rosalba O’Brien)
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