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Aug 21, 2017

In Episode 10 of Series 2 of The Rights Track Todd talks to Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, UNHCR’s Representative to the UK about refugees. We get some hard facts and statistics on numbers of refugees and where they’re from, discuss the role of the 1951 Refugee Convention, ask whether Angela Merkel’s open invitation to refugees was moral or misguided and whether the UK is playing its part in protecting those fleeing war, famine and persecution.

0.00- 5.30

  • Gonzalo provides some startling statistics on numbers of refugees (In 2016 65.6 million forcibly uprooted - more than 20 millions seeking safety across a border, 40 million uprooted but who stay within their country - 20 people displaced every minute of every day)
  • Majority of refugees 55% come today from just 3 countries: Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan - Syria alone more than 5 million, South Sudan at highest rate
  • Focus in the media has been on the arrival of refugees in Europe, but important to remember that 85% are in developing countries like Turkey, Pakistan, Iran who host millions of refugees - most refugees by far stay in their region of origin


  • Gonzalo talks about the ‘secondary movement’ of refugees and explains that a significant drop in refugee funding to regions in the Middle East was a driver for refugees to leave and try to come to places like Europe. He says the emphasis needs to be on strengthening the aid to those developing countries so they can meet the minimum needs (water, food, health) of refugees in countries close to them and also provide them with new opportunities otherwise they will want to move.
  • People think the majority of refugees are simply fleeing poverty but that is not the case
  • Gonzalo explains how the rights of refugees are enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention and how important it is that countries which have signed up to the convention live top to their commitments because it is a legal obligation
  • Gonzalo rejects claims that the Convention should be revisited or scrapped, explaining it has helped save millions of lives. He believes the problem is not the convention itself, but the failure of certain Government to uphold their commitments
  • Todd asks Gonzalo for his thoughts on the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s statement that all refugees were welcome and whether her statement was moral or misguided
  • Gonzalo says her statement showed great leadership and that the problem was that other leaders did not follow suit - not enough solidarity within Europe
  • Gonzalo believes there has been too much focus on stopping boats making the dangerous journey to Europe without thinking about the alternative and without providing the sort of aid that might help/encourage them to stay where they are


  • Some discussion about the UK position. Gonzalo describes UK as one of the most important donors of humanitarian aid in the world, giving substantial funding for example to help Syrian refugees in places like Jordan and Lebanon. It has also stepped up numbers of Syrian refugees that it will help resettle
  • Todd summarises some of the key points made by Gonzalo in the interview