Discrimination creates more problems, but solves nothing
Updated 15:13, 25-Mar-2020
Filippo Grandi

Editor's note: So far, COVID-19 has infected more than 200,000 people and caused nearly 10,000 deaths worldwide. With the number rising daily, governments around the world are scrambling to manage the pandemic. Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), shares his view with CGTN on the international response to COVID-19. This is part two of our interview with him. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

CGTN: What do you think is causing the discrimination to spread in the current crisis?

Grandi: We have to be very careful in organizing our responses to crisis like coronavirus. We [should] also avoid any discrimination because this is also possible. People are afraid, people are very insecure in a crisis like this. And it's very easy for people to turn to scapegoats; to turn to particular groups like refugees, like minorities, like foreigners, and take their frustration against these groups. A few days ago, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and myself made a strong appeal to the international community not to discriminate anybody, not to scapegoat anybody. The virus makes no distinction. We should make no distinction in our responses.

CGTN: What specific suggestions would you like to give on eliminating discrimination during a crisis like this?

Grandi: I don't have, as UN High Commissioner for Refugees, any coercive power. I can ask countries to respect the fundamental principles. Many, like China, have signed the refugee convention, so they are bound by international treaties. But that's all I can invoke. And I will continue to do that.

May I say, however, that I think in this particular instance of the coronavirus, I would like to add a practical consideration, that discrimination will solve nothing, will solve nothing. [It] may satisfy the aspirations of some politicians to gain more consensus, but fundamentally, discriminating in a health response simply creates more problems. Because you create a group that is more exposed to the epidemics, which in turn will affect others. So it's counterproductive even to discriminate. Therefore, here we have a moral and legal argument not to discriminate, which we will continue to put out in the United Nations. But we also have very practical ones. Discrimination leads to more problems, not to less problems. So it is doubly wrong.

Interviewer: Huang Jiyuan

Editing and design: Feng Ran, Huang Jiyuan

Graphic design: Jie Qiong

Producer: Wei Wei

Supervisor: Mei Yan

Part one: Challenges and dilemmas in the global response to COVID-19

Part three: Making COVID-19 response more 'international'

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com.)