Angela Merkel: Former German chancellor receives Unesco peace prize

Veteran leader praised for welcoming 1.2 million refugees to Germany in 2015 and 2016

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel receives the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize in Yamoussoukro, the Ivory Coast, on February 8. AFP
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Germany's former chancellor Angela Merkel received a prestigious UN award on Wednesday for opening her country to refugees during her time in office.

Germany welcomed more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers in 2015 and 2016, for which Ms Merkel was awarded the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Unesco Peace Prize in Ivory Coast's capital Yamoussoukro.

The award is named after Ivory Coast's first president.

"The jury wanted to honour the courageous decision taken in 2015 to welcome more than a million refugees … when at the same time so many voices were calling for the closure of Europe," said Audrey Azoulay, director general of Unesco.

"You were, at that time, the vision of courage in politics."

Ms Merkel's decision came at the peak of a crisis fuelled by the war in Syria.

"Respecting, preserving and sharing human rights is the mission of each of us," said the veteran former leader, who spent 16 years at the helm and stepped down in 2021.

"We decided that it was necessary to respect these principles in our migration policy.

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"This was only possible because many people rolled up their sleeves on the ground."

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara said: "Despite the hostility of public opinion, you took the decision to open Germany's borders to refugees fleeing conflict zones," said Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara.

"You have reminded all world leaders of their duty of solidarity towards all humans."

About 2,000 people were invited to the ceremony, which was established in 1989 and has handed awards to Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Francois Hollande.

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Updated: February 09, 2023, 6:23 AM