Former Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel will receive the 2022 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award, the UN Refugee Agency has announced.
The $150,000 award is given to individuals, groups and organisations who have significantly helped refugees, internally displaced or stateless people.
Merkel will receive the prize because in 2015 and 2016 Germany welcomed more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers – 2015 was the height of the refugee crisis across Europe and many other countries were closing their doors to asylum seekers and criticising Merkel’s open-door policy.
The former Chancellor played an important role in helping refugees integrate into society through education and training programmes and employment schemes.
Merkel’s promise at the time, Wir schaffen das – we’ll manage this – came as mainly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans arrived in Germany.
In 2020 a survey showed that refugees arriving in Germany between 2013 and 2016 were more likely to find a job than before this time and that 80 per cent of refugee children felt they belonged in Germany and that they were welcome, reports the Guardian.
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said: “By helping more than a million refugees to survive and rebuild, Angela Merkel displayed great moral and political courage.”
“It was true leadership, appealing to our common humanity, standing firm against those who preached fear and discrimination. 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.”
I congratulate Angela Merkel on receiving the UNHCR #NansenAward.
Under her leadership, Germany welcomed over 1.2M refugees & asylum seekers at the height of the Syria crisis.
I commend her compassion, courage & commitment to stand up for what is right.https://t.co/jjsF5Q1pbu
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) October 4, 2022
Between 2015 and 2019 1.7 million people applied for asylum in Germany making it the country in the world with the fifth highest population of refugees.
At the time, analysts linked this support for refugees with the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, who accused Merkel of causing the mass movement of people across the continent.
Merkel has also been criticised for later playing a key role in the 2016 Turkiye-EU migrant deal in which the European Union promised funds to Turkiye in exchange for stopping thousands of refugees crossing the Turkish-Greek border.