Angela Merkel, Former Chancellor of Germany
© Bundesregierung/Steffen Kugler
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Dr Angela Merkel honoured for ‘true leadership’ in protecting refugees

Dr Angela Merkel has received the UNHCR Refugee Nansen Award for her work protecting refugees at the height of the Syrian crisis.

The Former Federal Chancellor of Germany, Dr Angela Merkel, has received the UNHCR Refugee Nansen Award for her work protecting refugees and asylum seekers.

The UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award honours individuals, groups and organisations who go above and beyond the call of duty to protect refugees and displaced and stateless people.

Under then Federal Chancellor Merkel’s leadership, Germany welcomed more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers from 2015 and 2016, at the height of the conflict in Syria and amid deadly violence in other places.

“It was a situation which put our European values to the test as seldom before. It was no more and no less than a humanitarian imperative,” Dr Merkel said at the time.

As well as protecting people forced to flee war, persecution and human rights abuses, the former Chancellor was the driving force behind Germany’s integration efforts, helping refugees access education, training and employment.

Mastura, an Afghan refugee, drives a forklift truck at the VW logistics centre in Baunatal, Germany.
Mastura, an Afghan refugee, drives a forklift truck at the VW logistics centre in Baunatal, Germany. She is one of many refugees who has been able to restart her life under the leadership of Dr Angela Merkel. © UNHCR/Gordon Welters

Mastura, an Afghan refugee, is among those who have restarted their lives thanks to the programs established under Dr Merkel’s leadership.

Mastura arrived in Germany in 2013 and gave birth to her third child while living in a shelter for asylum seekers. Mastura’s family found an apartment near the VW Kassel plant in central Germany and, after mastering the language, she discovered VW’s year-long internship for refugees. She now works as a forklift driver at the VW Kassel plant.

Iraqi gynaecologist honoured for aiding Yazidi survivors to recover
© UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
Dr. Nagham Hasan, an Iraqi gynaecologist has been named the regional winner in the Middle East and North Africa. Since 2015, Dr. Nagham has devoted herself to helping Yazidi women who were enslaved by ISIS recover from their ordeal.

Four regional winners have also been honoured. The winners were selected from hundreds of nominees for their outstanding work with refugees.

In Africa, the regional winner is Mbera Fire Brigade. This all-volunteer refugee firefighting group in Mauritania has extinguished more than 100 bushfires and planted thousands of trees to preserve lives, livelihoods and the local environment.

In the Americas, the regional winner is Vicenta González, a former midwife who has provided nearly 50 years of service to displaced and other vulnerable people in Costa Rica. Along the way, she established a cacao cooperative to support refugees and  local women, including survivors of domestic violence.

Meikswe Myanmar is the winner for Asia and the Pacific. Meikswe Myanmar is a humanitarian organisation that assists communities in need, including internally displaced people, with emergency items, healthcare, education and livelihood opportunities.

The regional winner in the Middle East and North Africa is Dr Nagham Hasan, an Iraqi gynaecologist providing medical and psychosocial care to Yazidi girls and women who survived persecution, enslavement and gender-based violence at the hands of extremist groups in northern Iraq.

Dr Angela Merkel accepted the 2022 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award at a special ceremony in Geneva earlier this month, saying the prize was in honour of “the countless people who lent a hand” when large numbers of refugees arrived in Europe in 2015 and 2016. 

Dr. Merkel thanked each of the regional winners for their contributions and said she would donate the US$150,000 prize money to their organisations to help support their work.  

Former Federal Chancellor of Germany, Dr. Angela Merkel, who is the 2022 Nansen Refugee Award Global Laureate, along with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, poses for a photograph with this year’s Nansen Refugee Award Regional Winners.
© UNHCR/Mark Henley
This year’s Nansen Refugee Award Regional Winners with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and Dr Angela Merkel. L-R: Mr Ahmedou Ag Albohary, Regional Winner for Africa; Ms Naw Bway Khu, Regional Winner for Asia and the Pacific; UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi; Dr Angela Merkel; Dr Nagham Hasan, Regional Winner for the Middle East and North Africa; and Doña Vicenta González, Regional Winner for the Americas.

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