Closing borders to refugees based on nationality is wrong: UN chief

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Secretary-General António Guterres. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Countries which close their borders to refugees on the basis of religion, ethnicity or nationality are acting against shared "fundamental principles and values" according to the UN chief.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Secretary-General António Guterres said that countries had the right and obligation to manage their own borders, but not on the basis of discrimination.

Matthew Wells reports.

The UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, told reporters at UN Headquarters that the Secretary-General felt the need to express a "comprehensive position" on the decision by the President of the United States last Friday, to suspend the country's entire refugee programme for 120 days.

He noted that Ethiopia, where the UN chief had addressed the African Union annual meeting on Monday, was the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa, admitting "hundreds of thousands" over recent decades.

Mr Dujarric read the statement in full.

"Countries have the right, even the obligation, to responsibly manage their borders to avoid infiltration by members of terrorist organizations. This cannot be based on any form of discrimination related to religion, ethnicity or nationality because it is against the fundamental principles and values on which our societies are based and because it triggers widespread anxiety and anger that may facilitate the propaganda of the very terrorist organisations we all want to fight against, and because blind measures, not based on solid intelligence, tend to be ineffective as they risk being bypassed by what are today sophisticated global terrorist movements."

Mr Guterres added that he was particularly concerned by the decisions around the world that have been undermining the integrity of the international refugee protection regime.

With an estimated 65 million people forced to flee their homes, he said that refugees were finding more and more borders closed and increasingly restricted access to the protection they are entitled to, under international law. 

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 1’27″

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