Angela Merkel awarded top UN refugee prize, for aid to Syrians fleeing war

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel has won the prestigious 2022 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.
© Bundesregierung/Steffen Kugler
Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel has won the prestigious 2022 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.
  • UN News

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi lauded Ms. Merkel for displaying “great moral and political courage” in helping so many survive and rebuild their lives, who had been forced to flee brutal fighting at home.

‘Humanitarian imperative’

The former scientist, who led her country for 16 years, stepping down only last year, welcomed the desperate Syrians at the height of the conflict in 2015 and 2016, when other countries were turning their backs on them.

At that time, she described the situation as putting “our European values to the test as seldom before”.

“It was no more and no less than a humanitarian imperative”, she said at the time.

She called on her compatriots to reject divisive nationalism, urging them instead to be “self-assured and free, compassionate and open-minded”.

‘True leadership’

The UNHCR chief praised the former Chancellor’s determination to protect asylum-seekers and to stand up for human rights, humanitarian principles and international law.

“It was true leadership, appealing to our common humanity, standing firm against those who preached fear and discrimination,” he said.

“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”. 

‘Leadership, courage and compassion’

Each year, the 2022 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award – named after the Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat and first High Commissioner for Refugees Fridtjof Nansen – is given to an individual, group or organization who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to protect refugees, internally displaced or Stateless people. 

The selection committee recognized Ms. Merkel’s “leadership, courage and compassion in ensuring the protection of hundreds of thousands of desperate people” as well as her efforts to find “viable long-term solutions” for those seeking safety. 

In addition to protecting those forced to flee war, persecution and human rights abuses, the former Chancellor was the driving force behind Germany’s collective efforts to receive and help them integrate into society, through education and training programmes, employment schemes and labour market integration. 

She also led the expansion of Germany’s refugee resettlement programme, and was instrumental in ensuring the country’s growth as a substantive, reliable and active humanitarian partner, including in refugee operations around the world, the committee said.

Both her policies and her public statements were positive forces in European and global debates on issues of asylum and managing forced displacement.

Centennial observances

Angela Merkel and the regional winners will receive their accolades on 10 October at a ceremony in Geneva.

This year marks a century since Mr. Nansen was awarded the 1922 Nobel Peace Prize for repatriating prisoners of war and protecting millions of refugees displaced by conflict. 

It is also 100 years since the creation of the Nansen passport, an identity document for refugees that enable holders to move across borders in search of work. 

Regional winners 

The Award selection committee also honoured four 2022 regional winners: 

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

Americas: Vicenta González, whose nearly 50 years of service to displaced and other vulnerable people, including a cacao cooperative in Costa Rica, has supported refugees and host-community women, counting domestic violence survivors. 

Asia and the Pacific: The humanitarian organization Meikswe Myanmar has assisted communities in need, including internally displaced people, with emergency items, health care, education, and livelihoods opportunities. 

Middle East and North Africa:  Iraqi gynaecologist Nagham Hasan has provided medical and psychosocial care to Yazidi girls and women who survived persecution, enslavement and gender-based violence at the hands of extremist groups in northern Iraq.

Angela Merkel to receive UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

© UN News (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: UN News