Refugees near Goma in DR Congo | Photo: Getty Images/AFP/P.Moore
Refugees near Goma in DR Congo | Photo: Getty Images/AFP/P.Moore

A top refugee council slammed members of the UN Security Council for employing "kindergarten politics" at a time of global crisis. The UN’s refugee commissioner told DW "decisive action" is needed for displaced people.

More than 660,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since March due to ongoing conflicts, a top international aid group said on Friday, despite UN calls for ceasefires in light of the devastating coronavirus pandemic.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said that 19 countries are the most affected, with the highest number by far coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where violence related to a contested election in 2018 as well as unrelated armed militia groups remains ongoing.

'Not the time for kindergarten politics'

"At a time when health experts tell us to stay at home, men with guns are forcing hundreds of thousands out of their homes and into extreme vulnerability," said the NRC's Secretary-General Jan Egeland.

Without naming any specific countries, Egeland had strong words for UN Security Council members like China and the US, who have spent the past few months trading accusations related to the pandemic.

"While people are being displaced and killed, powerful members of the UN Security Council squabble like children in a sandbox," Egeland said.

He called on world leaders to "rise to the occasion" and issue a joint call for warring factions to declare temporary truces in order to let governments and health services deal with the global health crisis.

"Now is not the time for kindergarten politics," he added.

Since March, more than 440,000 people have been displaced in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to clashes between armed groups and the military. Some 24,000 people have had to flee in Yemen as a result of the ongoing war there, despite a vow from Saudi Arabia to implement a ceasefire. Other affected countries included Chad, Niger, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Myanmar.

UN: 'Greece is alone on the frontline' of refugee crisis

Concerns have been raised about the spread of coronavirus and treatment of refugees amid the crisis. On Thursday, DW published an exclusive report on allegations that Greek authorities were beating and forcibly deporting migrants.

"It is difficult. Greece is still very much left alone on the frontline of the crisis, just like Malta, Italy and other frontline countries," the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, told DW. He pointed out that the Greek state has acted quickly to move vulnerable and elderly refugees from island camps to the mainland where they can receive better treatment.

"But clearly those centers [on the islands] are still overcrowded and without more decisive action problems will continue to exist," he added. "In particular if crossings from Turkey resume in larger numbers and the numbers [of cases] go up again."

He also spoke of an "economic emergency" for the millions of Venezuelans who have fled their home country amid economic collapse.

[People with fragile incomes] are the first ones to lose their livelihoods. And this happens to a lot of Venezuelans," he said.

ed, es/rt (AFP, AP)

First published: May 22, 2020

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