UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi at an event in Italy said that "restrictive legislation, barbed wire, naval blockades, and pushbacks" are "racism". He stressed the legal and moral duty to welcome refugees and warned of a certain form of "false nationalism".
Speaking at the opening of the Festival of the Mind in Sarzana, northern Italy, on September 2, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi addressed the issue of perceived discrimination of non-Ukrainian refugees.
"I am not shocked by the statement that Ukrainians are refugees that are easier to host, due to geographical and cultural proximity," he said. "I am shocked by those who say that Ukrainians are real refugees and others are not."
He added that, "for the others, the response is restrictive legislation, barbed wire, naval blockades and pushbacks. This is racism. We have the legal and moral duty to welcome" refugees.
The event was organized by the Carispezia Foundation in collaboration with the Sarzana town council and with the support of the Liguria regional government. The theme of the 19th edition was 'Movement' and Grandi's speech focused on the movement of refugees.
'Be careful about a certain type of nationalism'
"The lesson of Ukraine is useful to understand how to respond to the movement of those who have nothing. In only a few weeks some seven million Ukrainians arrived in Europe, not just a few boats."
Grandi pointed out that the EU's decision to grant temporary protection for the Ukrainians arriving was broadly supported by public opinion. This, he said, disproved the statements heard for many years like 'Europe is full'.
The UN High Commissioner, who received a standing ovation at the end of his speech, said that "fair and effective reception is possible. We must be careful about a certain type of false nationalism that defends many isolated 'me'."
"I am not on any side or party. When we vote, let's choose those who recognize this complexity in migration, those who put cooperation in the country first to work together in a constructive spirit. Without sincere empathy for this human dimension -- and not only political, social and economic -- any response is destined to fail," he added.
'UN pacts on EU table, I hope next govt takes them into consideration'
Grandi also pointed out that 100 million people are displaced worldwide, driven by a complex dynamic of wars, discrimination, climate, economic and health-related causes.
He then went on to discuss Ukraine, noting that "in Europe we had never seen those fleeing war so closely. We are seeing the latest example of a crisis of peace that the world is experiencing."
Two pacts adopted by the UN are on the EU table to be examined, "a proposal worthy of serious discussion. I hope that the government that is sworn in after September 25 considers it."