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High Commissioner's message on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

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High Commissioner's message on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Statement by Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees
21 March 2023

On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and as we face unprecedented numbers of people uprooted from home, we must remember that it is not only conflict that forces people to flee. Racism and racial discrimination are all too often drivers of displacement.

Again and again, racism and racial discrimination are also the underlying reason refugees cannot seek or enjoy safety during displacement. We must denounce and condemn toxic rhetoric and restrictive asylum policies that not only haunt refugees on their journeys to safety but can also leave them without rights or dignity, even in exile.

This requires each one of us to recognise that racism is ubiquitous in societies and acknowledge its impact on individuals and communities – including people forced to flee. And it calls on us to go beyond recognition – we must act by protecting human rights, combating discrimination, and fostering mutual respect and understanding across communities and cultures. We must ensure that everyone can fully exert their right to live free from racial discrimination and hate.

This work means identifying and challenging narratives that uphold stereotypes and lead to the exclusion of racialized people. It can mean working with refugees, many of whom have fled due to deeply rooted discrimination, racism, and exclusion. It means fighting misinformation and xenophobic discourses that continue to impede their right to seek safety, challenge their integration, and hinder peaceful coexistence.

And political leaders must uphold legal and moral obligations to enact and implement asylum policies that unite rather than divide.

But this also requires examining, acknowledging, and addressing racial inequalities and inequities that may be in place in our own institutions. Over the past years, we have taken a number of steps to examine our own biases and to make UNHCR an even more anti-racist organization. UNHCR will continue upholding a zero-tolerance stance towards racism and racial discrimination within our organization and operations.

Today, I also reaffirm my anti-racist commitment and pledge that UNHCR will keep working with States, civil society, and other organizations to promote anti-racist policies and practices, including ones that address structural discrimination and inequality. We must continue this work. We must hold each other to the highest standard: we all have a part to play in interrupting the behaviours that perpetuate racism and racial injustice.