'Inclusion is the new protection': One-on-one with the head of the UN's refugee agency
TORONTO -- As COVID-19 takes its toll around the world, it's only made life harder for the record number of refugees.
On Friday, a report from the United Nations refugee agency revealed that in 2020, there were 82.4 million people globally who were forcibly displaced from their homes. That's one out of every 95 people around the world.
This figure is up four per cent from 2019, when the refugee population was at 79.5 million, and has been increasing for the last nine consecutive years.
Filippo Grandi, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees, sat down with CTV's Chief News Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme to discuss the worsening refugee crisis and how it's been affected by the pandemic ahead of World Refugee Day this Sunday.
Below is a transcript of the interview, edited for length and clarity:
Lisa LaFlamme: The global refugee crisis is just getting worse and worse. What are your projections going forward if something does not change?
Filippo Grandi: We'll have to continue to work, unfortunately, to address the humanitarian consequences of constantly rising displacement. This year, statistics are showing the for the ninth consecutive year an increase of several million. But we must restore the ability of the international community to deal with the root causes of these movement
LaFlamme: So, is there the political will to reverse this?
Grandi: I think there is a sense of interest. Forced migration has become such a global phenomenon. Unfortunately, the problem is that the "my country first" approach prevails look it's what's happening with the vaccines.
LaFlamme: World leaders, including Canada, have really been focused on protecting their own populations, as you say. Have they then just turned a blind eye to this growing refugee crisis?
Grandi: Canada has actually been one of the most coherent and consistent governments in trying to address every aspect of the human mobility crisis. Canada is also one of our largest donors.
LaFlamme: 160 countries closed their borders at the peak of this pandemic. So, what countries in your opinion did emerge as a sort of a model to follow on how to still ensure access to people seeking protection?
Grandi: Governments had to protect their communities, their population. But in that, I think that the countries that stood out, if I may say, are the countries that kept borders open in spite of that, or rather, that allowed asylum seekers refugees, pressing at their borders to come in. And this is essentially poor countries.
LaFlamme: The theme of this year's World Refugee Day is about the power of inclusion.
Grandi: I always say inclusion is the new protection for refugees. And this includes inclusion in vaccinations, for example. If you look at the COVID response, who was on the frontlines? Migrants and refugees were, with their knowledge, with their expertise, with their availability, when health staff was short everywhere. That's proof of how they can contribute.
LaFlamme: Inclusion is the new protection. Okay, much work could be done. Filippo Grandi, we thank you so much for your time tonight.
Grandi: Thank you very much.