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Africa

Refugees Welcome Index: How are Africans feeling?

A new survey by Amnesty International reveals that a majority of people around the world would welcome refugees in their countries. Kenyans are refugee - friendly, despite government plans to shut down camps there.

The Refugees Welcome Index just released by Amnesty International is the first of its kind. Compiled by the independent strategy consultancy GlobeScan, the survey ranks countries based on people's willingness to accept refugees into their countries, towns, neighborhoods and homes.

Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa were the only African countries surveyed. About 80 percent of respondents in Nigeria said people should take in refugees who are fleeing wars or facing persecution. 85 percent said their government needs to do more to help refugees. However, only 9 percent of Nigerians said they would welcome refugees in their homes.

In Kenya, about 65 percent of people interviewed by researchers in March 2016 said they would welcome refugees in their country with open arms. Amnesty International's general secretary, Salil Shetty, said the figures in the report show how anti-refugee political rhetoric contradicts with public opinion. "People are ready to make refugees welcome, but governments' inhumane responses to the refugee crisis are badly out of touch with the views of their own citizens," Shetty said in a statement. "Too often they use xenophobic anti-refugee rhetoric to chase approval ratings. This survey suggests they are not listening to the silent majority of welcoming citizens who take the refugee crisis personally." Shetty added.

Salil Shetty Amnesty International (ddp images/AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Amnesty International's Salil Shetty calls on governments to protect refugees

Last week, the government of Kenya announced the closure of two refugee camps in the country, including one of the world's biggest- Dadaab - citing financial challenges and security concerns. Kenyan officials urged the international community to take responsibility for the humanitarian needs of the refugees. "The government of the Republic of Kenya, having taken into consideration its national security interests, has decided that hosting of refugees has to come to an end," said a statement released by Interior Ministry official Karanja Kibicho.

However, Amnesty's refugee officer, Victor Nyamori, says the Kenyan government has no evidence to back the insecurity claims, calling the decision to close the refugee camps “reckless”. "We have seen a number of attacks in Kenya and a number of people who were arrested or accused to be connected with terrorism, most of them are Kenyans," Nyamori told DW from Nairobi.

South Africans tell refugees: you're welcome!

Last year, xenophobic attacks swept through South Africa. The outbreak of violence flared up after Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini reportedly said that foreign nationals must pack their bags and leave.

Protest gegen rassistische Gewalt und Xenophobie in Südafrika (EPA/KEVIN SUTHERLAND)

Most South Africans are refugee - friendly, despite xenophobic attacks last year

Members of the Zulu ethnic group took this as an invitation to attack foreign nationals from countries including Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Somalia and Ethiopia. According to the African Diaspora Forum, a federation of African immigrants' associations in South Africa, the xenophobic attacks started in South Africa back in 2008, killing more 62 people, 40 of them were foreign nationals.

Nyamori says, 24 percent of South Africans strongly believe that their country needs to do more to protect refugees and migrants. "Unfortunately, a number of refugees were attacked by very few people but the majority of the country are welcoming refugees."

Ghana, also surveyed, is home to thousands of refugees from neighboring countries. In March 2011, the West African nation received 3,129 refugees from Ivory Coast who had fled during the second Ivorian civil war. According to Amnesty’s report, 84 percent of people surveyed said they would welcome refugees fleeing wars or persecution. However, a small number of people, 5 percent, said they would accept refugees in their homes.

The Refugees Welcome Index shows that 80 percent of people worldwide would welcome refugees with open arms. And many respondents even said they were prepared to take displaced people into their homes. Only 17 percent said they would refuse refugees' entry to their nations.

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