Angela Merkel to receive UN refugee award

UN refugee agency says Merkel to get award for protecting refugees at height of Syria crisis.

Angela Merkel to receive UN refugee award

The UN refugee agency announced Tuesday that Angela Merkel, the former German chancellor, will receive the 2022 Nansen Refugee Award for aiding people fleeing the war in Syria.

The award is named after the Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat, and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen.

“By helping more than a million refugees to survive and rebuild, Angela Merkel displayed great moral and political courage,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in a statement.

He praised Merkel’s determination to protect asylum seekers and to stand up for human rights, humanitarian principles and international law.

“She showed what can be achieved when politicians take the right course of action and work to find solutions to the world’s challenges rather than simply shift responsibility to others,” said Grandi.

Merkel will receive the award in Geneva on Oct. 10 at a Geneva ceremony along with regional prize winners, UNHCR spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh told reporters in Geneva.

The award, accompanied by $150,000, is given to an individual, group, or organization going beyond the call of duty to protect refugees, internally displaced or stateless people.

Welcomed 1.2 million refugees

Under Merkel’s leadership, Germany welcomed more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers in 2015 and 2016 -- at the height of the conflict in Syria and amid deadly violence in other places, the UN agency said.

UNHCR quoted Merkel as saying at that time: “It was a situation which put our European values to the test as seldom before. It was no more and no less than a humanitarian imperative.”

She called on her fellow Germans to reject divisive nationalism and urged them to be “self-assured and free, compassionate and open-minded.”

Saltmarsh said that as well as protecting people forced to flee war, persecution and human rights abuses, the former German chancellor was the driving force behind Germany’s collective efforts to receive them.

These efforts helped the refugees integrate through education and training programs, employment schemes and labor market integration.

“She was also instrumental in ensuring Germany’s growth as a substantive, reliable and active humanitarian partner,” said Saltmarsh.

UNHCR said Merkel’s policies and public statements were positive forces in European and global debates on asylum and forced displacement issues.

Regional winners

The UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award selection committee has also honored four regional winners for 2022.

In Africa, the Mbera Fire Brigade, an all-volunteer refugee firefighting group in Mauritania, extinguished more than 100 bushfires and planted thousands of trees to preserve lives, livelihoods and the local environment.

In the Americas, Vicenta Gonzalez, whose nearly 50 years of work for the displaced included establishing a cacao cooperative in Costa Rica to support refugees and host-community women, including survivors of domestic violence.

In Asia and the Pacific, Meikswe Myanmar, a humanitarian organization that assists communities in need, including internally displaced people, with emergency items, health care, education, and livelihoods opportunities.

In the Middle East and North Africa, Dr. Nagham Hasan, an Iraqi gynecologist, provides medical and psychosocial care to Yazidi girls and women who survived persecution, enslavement, and gender-based violence at the hands of extremists in northern Iraq.

This year marks a century since Fridtjof Nansen – the first High Commissioner for Refugees – was awarded the 1922 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to repatriate prisoners-of-war and to protect millions of refugees displaced by conflict.