GENEVA, Switzerland – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned against demonizing refugees, underlining the importance of applying law to all.
While stressing the need for vigilance over security threats, the UNHCR called on Friday for the protection of people escaping persecution or violence.
“Like in any population, there are people who are criminals and the law should be applied to them. Nobody is above the law, whether you are a refugee or not,” UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said.
“But we should not forget that the vast majority of refugees are law-abiding and we should not demonize them or see them all as criminals and terrorists because that’s not the case,” he added.
Spindler noted that the majority of people are aware of the refugees’ plight and the protection they are entitled to.
“Most people in the world also believe that people who are fleeing persecution should be protected and they want their countries to keep their borders open to them,” the UNHCR official said.
The UN refugee agency’s warning came after an Ipsos MORI global opinion poll showed that 60 percent of people thought that extremists were posing as refugees, while around 40 percent called for the closure of their borders to refugees, with support for such a move highest in Turkey, India and Hungary.
More than 16,000 people in 22 countries, including Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia, have participated in the survey of attitudes towards refugees and immigration.
Head of Ipsos MORI’s Social Research Institute Bobby Duffy said in a statement that attitudes towards refugees have not changed much since 2011.
“There has not been a wholesale negative shift in attitudes… across the 22 (countries) as a whole, attitudes have remained fairly stable over the last five years,” Duffy said.
Europe is struggling with the worst refugee crisis since the World War II. Refugees are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, to reach Europe.
The influx of asylum seekers into Europe has sparked pro-and anti-refugee sentiments across the continent.
This is while observers say major European powers are to blame for the exodus as their policies have led to a surge in terrorism and war in those regions, forcing more people to flee their homes.
In an interview last year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the Western support for terrorists was to blame for the refugee crisis in Europe.
Europe is “not dealing with the cause” of the current refugee crisis, Assad said, adding that all Syrian people want is “security and safety.”