UN rights chief appeals to voters not to scapegoat migrants and refugees as elections loom

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. human rights chief warned Wednesday about rising hatred and discrimination around the world in a “mega-year for elections,” calling on voters to put rights of others in mind when they cast their ballots.

Volker Türk made the call with major elections looming in places like France and Britain this week, and in the United States and Germany later this year. Immigrants, refugees and other foreigners have been “scapegoats” for some political parties, he said.

“I’m always worried when I hear narratives that denigrate the other, that dehumanize the other, that makes scapegoats of migrants, of refugees, of asylum seekers, of minority groups,” Türk said.

He blasted the “politics of distraction” and said political leaders needed to stand up against the discourse of hate.

“History tells us, in particular in Europe, that the vilification of the other, that the denigration of the other is a harbinger for worse to come,” he said. “It’s an alarm bell that we need to ring.”

“Especially in this year, which is the mega-year for elections,” he noted the United States, India, Europe and beyond have experienced electoral seasons “that often lead to a speech of hatred and dehumanization of the other.”

He insisted in general that there must be “zero tolerance” for hate speech and rejected any attempts to denigrate “the other.”