GENEVA, 4th January, 2016 (WAM) — The new UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has hoped to make progress in ensuring international protection and improved living conditions for millions of refugees, internally displaced and stateless people.

“UNHCR is navigating extraordinarily difficult waters,” Grandi said. “The combination of multiple conflicts and resulting mass displacement, fresh challenges to asylum, the funding gap between humanitarian needs and resources, and growing xenophobia is very dangerous. The road ahead is a challenging one, but I hope that working with governments, civil society, and other partners, we will make progress in ensuring international protection and improved living conditions for millions of refugees, internally displaced and stateless people.”

Filippo Grandi, a UN official who has worked in refugee and political affairs in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, began his five-year term as UN High Commissioner for Refugees on January 1st, succeeding Antonio Guterres whose more than 10 years in office ended last week.

High Commissioner Grandi, who arrived at UNHCR’s headquarters office in Geneva earlier on Monday, takes up the position at a time of unprecedented displacement challenges. Record numbers of people globally are forced to flee war and persecution, including more than one million refugees and migrants who crossed the Mediterranean to Europe over the past year.

Other challenges include critical shortfalls in humanitarian funding, fewer voluntary returns than at any time in more than three decades, people staying in exile for longer periods of time and the increased politicisation of refugee issues in many countries.

Grandi added that he hoped solutions to crises of displacement would be “pursued with renewed determination by addressing their root causes and investing adequate political and material resources. UNHCR, whose mandate includes the search for solutions, stands ready to work with all those pursuing this goal.”

WAM/AAMIR/Moran