US election campaign "rhetoric" putting UN refugee programme "at risk"

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Children at Atme camp for displaced people in northern Syria, near the border with Turkey. Photo: Jodi Hilton/IRIN

There is concern that some of the rhetoric being used in the United States presidential election campaign could be putting an important UN refugee resettlement programme to the US "at risk".

That's according to a spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) speaking on Tuesday from Geneva.

Melissa Fleming was responding to a question about the call on Monday, by one Republican presidential candidate for a "halt" to Muslims entering the United States.

Daniel Dickinson reports.

On Monday, one leading candidate from the Republican Party presidential field, called for Muslims to be barred from entering the US, including even those who are US citizens currently overseas.

Asked at a press briefing on Tuesday about the anti-Muslim comment, the UNHCR Spokesperson Melissa Fleming said she would not address US domestic concerns specifically.

However, she cautioned against the hostile language being expressed by any presidential candidate towards refugees over the past few months, especially those from Syria.

"We are talking about Syrian refugees today and we are concerned that the rhetoric being used in the election campaign, is putting an incredibly important resettlement programme at risk. Our refugee programme is religion-blind. Our resettlement programme selects the people who are most in need."

She praised President Obama's continuing commitment to allow refugees from Syria entry to the US.

President Obama has called for the US to accept at least ten thousand more over the next year, and small numbers have continued to arrive for resettlement in recent weeks, even in states where the governor has called for them to be refused entry.

Daniel Dickinson, United Nations.

Duration: 1’19″

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