Angela Merkel awarded 2022 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award
On October 4, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), announced that Dr. Angela Merkel, the former Federal Chancellor of Germany, is the recipient of the 2022 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.
Merkel is perhaps the European leader who has done most for refugees since Fridtjof Nansen—the first High Commissioner for Refugees—over a century ago.
Under her 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.
At that time, she said, “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 instead to be “self-assured and free, compassionate and open-minded.”
Filippo Grandi, the U.N .High Commissioner for Refugees, praised Merkel’s determination to protect asylum seekers and to stand up for human rights, humanitarian principles and international law, declaring, “By helping more than a million refugees to survive and rebuild, Angela Merkel displayed great moral and political courage.”
As well as protecting people forced to flee war, persecution and human rights abuses, Merkel was also the leading force behind Germany’s collective efforts to receive them and help them integrate into society, through education and training programs, employment programs, and labour market integration.
The UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award selection committee has also honoured four regional winners for 2022:
• in Africa, the Mbera Fire Brigade, an all-volunteer refugee firefighting group in Mauritania that has extinguished more than 100 bushfires and planted thousands of trees to preserve lives, livelihoods and the local environment;
• in the Americas, Vicenta González, whose nearly 50 years of service to displaced and other vulnerable people 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 gynaecologist providing 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.
The award was presented to the former German Chancellor along with the regional winners on Oct. 18 at a ceremony in Geneva.
With the number of forcibly displaced people around the world passing 100 million for the first time, Grandi said it is imperative that the public retain their sense of compassion towards those forced to flee their homes – and that countries continue to uphold the ancient tradition of asylum, as have most countries, including longstanding and generous hosts like Türkiye, Pakistan, Uganda and others.
This year marks a century since Fridtjof Nansen—the first High Commissioner for Refugees—was awarded the 1922 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in the wake of the First World War to repatriate prisoners of war and to protect millions of refugees and internally displaced persons.