CANBERRA, Australia – The global economic crisis will create more refugees and fuel xenophobia in some countries, the United Nations refugee chief warned Monday.
Antonio Guterres, the world body's high commissioner for refugees, told reporters in the Australian capital Canberra that refugees and migrants can expect to be blamed for economic problems that are deepening in many countries.
"In my experience as a politician, I'd say that when things go wrong in a country, there are two potential targets: one is the government, the other is the foreigners," the former Portuguese prime minister said.
He described the economic crisis as a "generator of xenophobia" in some countries. He did not name any country.
"Xenophobia is an inevitable trend in many parts of the world when the economic situation deteriorates," Guterres said.
Guterres, in Australia to discuss refugee issues with government officials, also described the global slowdown as "an accelerating factor" that enhances the instability and conflicts that displace refugees.
Countries such as Indonesia were not doing enough to prevent human traffickers from smuggling asylum seekers in the Asia-Pacific region, he said.
He also said he would travel to Bangkok next month to discuss international concerns about Thailand's treatment of migrants from Myanmar.
The Thai government acknowledged this month that authorities towed boats carrying ethnic Rohyingya migrants, who are denied citizenship in their native Myanmar, out to sea.
Rescued migrants have alleged they were hauled out to the high seas in boats with no engines by the Thai navy and left to drift with little food and water.
Officials in the Indian navy, who rescued some in the Andaman Sea, believed on the basis of survivors' accounts that hundreds may have perished.
"The recent events with the ... Rohyingya boat people were very, very, very worrying for us and we hope that it will not be repeated," Guterres said.
Australia announced Monday that it will increase its aid to international efforts to resettle refugees this fiscal year by $2.9 million to $9.3 million.