Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel was awarded the Nansen Prize by the UN refugee agency UNHCR for welcoming more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers during 2015 and 2016/Photo: Angola Presidency/Twitter

Angela Merkel wins UN refugee agency award

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel was named winner of the prestigious Nansen Award for offering a haven to those fleeing violence at the height of the Syrian conflict, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Tuesday.

Merkel, who stepped down last year after 16 years as head of government, welcomed the desperate Syrians at the height of the conflict in 2015 and 2016, when other countries were turning their backs on them, the UNHCR said.

Germany welcomed more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum-seekers during 2015 and 2016. “It was no more and no less than a humanitarian imperative”, she said at the time, calling on Germans to reject divisive nationalism and urging them instead to be “self-assured and free, compassionate and open-minded”.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi lauded Merkel for displaying “great moral and political courage” in helping so many survive and rebuild their lives.

The UNHCR chief praised the former Chancellor’s determination to stand up for human rights, humanitarian principles and international law.

“It was true leadership, appealing to our common humanity, standing firm against those who preached fear and discrimination,” he said.

“She showed what can be achieved when politicians take the right course of action and work to find solutions to the world’s challenges rather than simply shift responsibility to others”.

Each year, the 2022 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award – named after the Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat and first High Commissioner for Refugees Fridtjof Nansen – is given to an individual, group or organization who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to protect refugees, internally displaced or Stateless people.

The selection committee recognized Ms Merkel’s “leadership, courage and compassion in ensuring the protection of hundreds of thousands of desperate people” as well as her efforts to find “viable long-term solutions” for those seeking safety.

Angela Merkel and the regional winners will receive their accolades on 10 October at a ceremony in Geneva.

Vivian Asamoah with UNHCR press release

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