Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel received UNESCO Peace Prize for accepting refugees

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Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel received the 2022 Peace Prize on Tuesday, August 23, “in recognition of her efforts to welcome refugees,” according to UNESCO. 

Merkel received the Félix Houphout-Boigny-UNESCO Peace Prize, according to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Twitter and website, for her “courageous” decision to welcome more than 1.2 million migrants in 2015, particularly those from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Eritrea. 

After 16 years in office, Merkel left her position as head of state of Germany in 2021. The refugee crisis dominated her third term more than any other issue, garnering support from some while drawing criticism from others, and its effects may still be felt today.

A wave of refugees converged on Europe’s borders in 2015 as a result of wars in the Middle East, mainly in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. 

At a crucial juncture, Merkel opened Germany’s borders and is credited with telling the German people, “We can do it,” as the nation accepted hundreds of thousands of refugee seekers. 

890,000 asylum seekers had reached Germany by the end of 2015, many of whom had not through adequate identity checks. This influx overwhelmed local communities, stoked instability in some areas, and helped boost support for the far-right, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

AfD rose to prominence as the opposition forces in Germany in 2015 before losing support once more as a result of Merkel’s handling of the COVID-19 controversy. 

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the country’s borders were once again opened to hundreds of thousands of people, primarily women and children from that country.

In accordance with the United Nations Charter and the UNESCO Constitution, the prize was established in 1989 to recognise a person, an organisation, or a private or governmental body that has made a major contribution to the promotion, study, safeguarding, or maintenance of peace. 

The award is given each year. Other recipients of the honour, according to the website, included Jimmy Carter, Frederik W. De Klerk, and Nelson Mandela.

(with inputs from agencies)

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