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Politics, media turns toxic on refugees – UN chief

18 April 20190 comments

The United Nations refugee chief has branded current political, media and social media exchanges around refugees, migrants and foreigners as “toxic” and “poisonous”.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi was speaking in the wake of the horrific March 15 attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed 50 Muslim worshippers.

Mr Grandi said the attacks was the result “of that toxic language of politics”.

And he urged countries everywhere to take “a leaf from the exemplary response of the people and the leadership of New Zealand” in responding to the “toxic trends”.

He called on nations to restate the values that underpin global solidarity and “reaffirm that our societies will not be really prosperous, stable and peaceful if they do not include all”.

Australian white supremacist, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, who has been charged with the mosque killings which included many immigrants, livestreamed the shootings and sent out a lengthy manifesto.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, shortly after the attack, said that the world has been stuck in a vicious cycle of extremism which must end.

Prime Minister Ardern said she would never utter the killer’s name and give his views the oxygen he wanted.

Mr Grandi told the UN Security Council that currently there was “unprecedented stigmatisation of refugees and migrants”.

He said global and local responses were increasingly inadequate.

Mr Grandi said he had worked with refugees for more than three decades and had seen “much solidarity, even heroism in some of the responses that are provided on the ground” to help them.

“That solidarity is still very strong in many parts of the world, from African villages to the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar, to communities in Latin American helping Venezuelans,” he said.

“But also in these three-and-a-half decades I have never seen such toxicity, such poison in the language of politics, in media, in social media, even in everyday discussions and conversations around this issue,” Mr Grandi said.

“That toxicity that focuses sadly, tragically, often, on refugees, on migrants, on foreigners,” he said.

“That should be of concern to us all.”

Mr Grandi said that often politicians were to blame for the toxicity.

“Many politicians believe that – and I think they are proven right – that doing this (fomenting divisiveness) expands their consensus,” he said.

“But he said this is wrong and unfair to people who are fleeing because they seek safety from war, from persecution,” Mr Grandi said.

He said the mosque attacks in New Zealand showed this has become an issue of security and stability for all countries – and governments need to address the issue of language on social media and in politics.

“It is an issue if left unchecked may have very grave consequences, not only for our work but for the world in general,” Mr Grandi warned.



Laurie Nowell 
AMES Australia Senior Journalist