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UN Calls for Political Solutions to Refugee Crisis

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, center, accompanied by U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric, left, and Ninette Kelley, director of the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, speaks to U.N. correspondents on World Refugee Day at U.N. headquarters in New York, June 20, 2017.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, marking World Refugee Day on Tuesday, expressed concern that opportunities for refugee resettlement in richer countries have decreased.

"This is particularly worrying, especially when associated to forms of political populism, xenophobia, racism in which refugees become a target," he said at a news conference in New York. "Many times being accused of being part of a terror threat, when refugees are not terrorists, they are the first victim of terror. They are fleeing terror. That is why they are refugees."

Guterres said people must recognize that there is no humanitarian solution to the refugee crisis, only political ones. He stressed the importance of solving crises around the world that force people to leave their homes in the first place.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement on World Refugee Day promising continued humanitarian support from the United States and thanking countries that host and resettle refugees.

"As the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance, the United States is a leader in supporting refugees and addressing causes of forced displacement," the statement read.

Recognition of welcoming nations

In December 2000, the United Nations moved to declare June 20 World Refugee Day to commemorate "the strength, courage, and resilience of millions of refugees."

"We honor the resilience and courage of more than 65 million people who have been forced to flee war, persecution and violence," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement Tuesday. "But it's also a moment to recognize those communities and people around the world who receive refugees and the internally displaced in their midst, offering them a safe place, and welcoming them in their schools, their workplaces and their societies."

Grandi denounced the fear and exclusion that often surrounds rhetoric on resettling refugees. He called on the public to "change this trajectory" and welcome those forced to leave their homes.

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