NEW YORK, 18th November, 2015 (WAM) — The United Nations refugee agency has expressed its shock and horror at the attacks in Paris and the killing of so many innocent people but warned against the scapegoating of refugees, in the wake of the deadly attacks.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, Antonio Guterres, conveyed his solidarity with the government and the people of France, as he did with the Government of Lebanon following the recent Beirut attacks.

“We are deeply disturbed by language that demonises refugees as a group. This is dangerous as it will contribute to xenophobia and fear. The security problems Europe faces are highly complex. Refugees should not be turned into scapegoats and must not become the secondary victims of these most tragic events,” said Melissa Fleming, UNHCR spokesperson at the Palais des Nations press briefing in Geneva.

Ms. Fleming cautioned against the reactions of some member states to end the programmes being put in place, backtracking from commitments made to manage the refugee crisis, such as relocation, or proposing the erection of more barriers.

At the same time, she also expressed concern at the yet unconfirmed news that one of the Paris attackers may have entered Europe as part of the current influx of refugees and migrants.

“We strongly believe in the importance of preserving the integrity of the asylum system. Asylum and terrorism are not compatible with each other,” said Ms. Fleming, adding that the 1951 Refugee Convention excludes from its scope people who have committed serious crimes.

Ms. Fleming emphasised that the overwhelming majority of those coming to Europe are fleeing persecution or the life-threatening effects of conflict and are unable to reach safety in Europe by alternative avenues.

She also stressed that many people are fleeing from extremism and terrorism “from the very people associated with the Paris attacks.” The spokesperson also added that precarious conditions in countries of first asylum have also forced many to leave for Europe.

WAM/AAMIR/Moran