West News Wire: The UN refugee agency announced on Tuesday that it will present former German Chancellor Angela Merkel with its highest honor for her efforts to welcome more than 1 million migrants, the most of whom were from Syria, into Germany, despite some domestic and international criticism.
Merkel has been chosen as the newest recipient of the Nansen award, which is given yearly by the UN agency based in Geneva, according to Matthew Saltmarsh, a spokesman for the organization.
“In 2015 and 2016, which, as you will recall, was the height of the crisis in Syria and there was fatal violence in other areas of the world, Germany accepted more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum-seekers,” Saltmarsh told reporters. Dr. Merkel contributed to highlighting the plight of refugees globally.”
Merkel’s decision to let in so many migrants boosted the far-right Alternative for Germany party and resulted in protests by a vocal minority. She was also blasted by some governments for being too friendly to refugees, when some European Union partner states were closing borders to refugees and asylum-seekers.
The award includes a $150,000 prize. Merkel is expected to travel to Geneva next Monday to receive the award, Saltmarsh said. Four regional winners were also announced.
Merkel thanked UNHCR and said that “this award is a great honor for me.”
The UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award honors individuals, groups or organizations that go “above and beyond the call of duty” to protect refugees and other displaced and stateless people, the agency says.
More than 60 laureates have received the award since it was founded in 1954 to celebrate Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian scientist, explorer and diplomat who was the first commissioner for refugees in the League of Nations the predecessor of the the United Nations
The recipient in 2021 was the Jeel Albena Association for Humanitarian Development in Yemen, for its support for displaced Yemenis.