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UN official calls for political will to tackle refugee crises

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UNITED NATIONS, April 9 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on Tuesday called for political will to tackle refugee crises around the world and warned against toxic political language against refugees.

Times are very challenging with regard to the issue of refugees as there is unprecedented stigmatization of refugees and migrants, traditional responses to refugee crises are increasingly inadequate, and there is a sense of an overwhelming global crisis, Grandi told the Security Council in a briefing.

"But to portray this as a global crisis that is not manageable, in my opinion -- I'd like to propose -- it is wrong."

With political will, with improved responses as enshrined in the new Global Compact on Refugees adopted by the General Assembly in December 2018, it is possible to address these crises and the Security Council has a critical role to play, said Grandi.

He asked for efforts to create peace and security, to support countries that host the largest numbers of refugees, and to remove obstacles to solutions, and in particular to the return of people to their own countries.

Of the nearly 70 million people that are displaced or refugees, most of them are fleeing conflict. If conflicts were prevented or resolved, most refugee flows would disappear, said Grandi.

He deplored fragmented approaches to peacemaking and insufficient approaches to peacebuilding. "We see a lot of addressing the symptoms without addressing the causes," he said.

However, political solutions to conflicts are not easy in today's world and forced displacement will continue for some time, he noted, asking for more support to countries that host large number of refugees.

Eighty-five percent of the world's refugees are in poor or middle-income countries and support for those countries must be stepped up, he said.

Grandi also asked to remove obstacles, in particular, those that prevent people from returning to their countries of origin. Syrian refugees, he said, have three major concerns: material concerns, including shelter, services and jobs; security concerns, including conscription and retaliation in general; and legal and administrative obstacles related to property and documentation.

He asked countries to create conditions for the return of refugees and the returns must be dignified, secure and safe.

Grandi observed that there is strong solidarity with refugees around the globe, but also hate speech of unprecedented scale.

"That should be of concern to us all," he said, noting that the fatal mosque shootings in New Zealand was the result of such toxic political language.

In a press encounter later Tuesday, Grandi said such toxic language, if unchecked, will have grave consequences.

But he refused to say whether U.S. President Donald Trump's remarks on asylum seekers from Central America through the border with Mexico were toxic or not.

"I did not accuse anybody of toxic language. I was referring to the language that prevails on this issue in social media, and sometimes also in political discourse."

"When it comes to more senior level of leadership, I would certainly invite all leaders, not just President Trump, all leaders, including in my country, including in (other countries of) Europe, to be vigilant about the manner in which refugees, migrants are spoken of."

To depict refugees and migrants in a negative manner or to depict their movement as "an invasion" is not a constructive way forward and doesn't provide any real solution, said Grandi.

He said people who come to the United States with valid claims and asking for asylum should be heard.

The situation in Central America is a situation of economic deprivation, which is likely to generate economic migration. But it is also a situation of extreme violence by gangs, lack of law and order, abuses, rapes and forced recruitment of children. People who are fleeing from that situation are refugees and should be considered as refugees, he said.

"Doors have to remain open for people to seek asylum; fair hearing has to be given; efficient processes have to be put in place. For those that are recognized as refugees, they should stay in the long tradition of this country and those that are not refugees, there are other measures that have to be taken and that are beyond my mandate," said Grandi.

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