Grandi praises Angela Merkel’s strong ‘moral compass’ as she lands top UNHCR refugee award


Migrants and Refugees

For her political courage, compassion and decisive action in protecting people forced to flee, the head of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, presented the former Chancellor of Germany with the prestigious Nansen Award, on Monday.

High Commissioner Filippo Grandi introduced this year’s global laureate, Angela Merkel at the award ceremony, crediting her vision, courage, and fortitude in welcoming more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers to Germany between 2015 and 2016 – during the height of the still on-going Syria conflict.  

“You demonstrated a moral compass which not only guided your work and the actions of your country, but it showed the way for so many of us in Europe and in the world”, he said.

‘Self-confident and free’

In her acceptance speech, Ms. Merkel stressed that that she rejected the selfish instincts of some “with cold hearts”, who wanted Germany to be only for Germans.

“What is important is a future for the country to be self-confident and free”, a Germany which “is open to other human beings…[and] can succeed if we do our best”, she said.

The former German Chancellor insisted that the accolade was “also an honour for all the people who’ve got to grips with the tasks we faced.”

“My thanks goes first and foremost to all those people”, she said.

Other awardees

Four regional winners were also honoured.

The winner for Africa, was all-volunteer refugee firefighting group from Mauritania, the Mbera Fire Brigade, which has extinguished more than 100 bushfires and planted thousands of trees to preserve lives, livelihoods and the environment.

For the Americas, Vicenta González took the honours, whose nearly 50 years of service to displaced and other vulnerable people, including a cacao cooperative in Costa Rica, has supported refugees and host-community women, counting domestic violence survivors. 

In Asia and the Pacific, the humanitarian organization Meikswe Myanmar, has assisted communities in need, including internally displaced people, with emergency items, healthcare, education, and livelihood support.

For the Middle East and North Africa, Iraqi gynaecologist Nagham Hasan has provided medical and psychosocial care to Yazidi girls and women who survived persecution, enslavement and gender-based violence.

Each year, the 2022 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award – named after the Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat and first High Commissioner for Refugees Fridtjof Nansen – is given to an individual, group or organization who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to protect refugees, internally displaced or Stateless people.