Speaking on the occasion of the reception of the University of Lisbon Prize, which was awarded to him in 2020 but has only now been delivered, Guterres praised Portugal as a country "exemplary in its policy of welcoming refugees".
"It is true that our peripheral location in Europe meant that we had less pressure from asylum seekers than other European countries. But it is also true that other countries even more peripheral than us, until recently in refugee crises, didn't have the same generosity and the same openness".
These countries, particularly in eastern Europe, he considered, redeemed themselves in the recent refugee crisis resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but the UN leader recalled that the same did not occur in the recent past, "in which refugees from Syria moved through the Balkans in a chaotic way, seeing doors closed one after the other".
Guterres welcomed the openness that has been shown over the last few months towards the crisis in Ukraine, but at the same time left a warning: "It cannot but make us reflect on why Europe welcomes Ukrainian refugees and in so many countries Europeans were so reticent to receive Syrian and African refugees".
According to the former Portuguese prime minister, this situation "caused and causes in many who live in the so-called 'global south' a certain frustration, even a certain anger, which makes it difficult for them to express the solidarity that Europeans expect when Europe faces a devastating crisis, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and all the consequences this has had on our daily lives, in European countries and even more dramatically in third world countries".
Wherever they come from.— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) January 5, 2023
Whenever they are forced to flee.
Everyone has the right to seek asylum - a fundamental human right for people fleeing violence, persecution or war at home. pic.twitter.com/EzdMO6HYuS
In another line of criticism, António Guterres referred that in addition to the conflicts, there is something that cannot be forgotten: "We are losing the fight against climate change. The possibility of maintaining growth in global temperature limited to 1.5 [degrees celsius] is on the verge of being lost and irreversibly lost. There continues to be, especially at the level of large emitter countries, a lack of political awareness that is indispensable to reverse this situation", he lamented.
He also recalled the need for climate justice, because "the truth is that the countries that suffer the most from the dramatic impacts of climate change are not those that contribute the most to these changes and are not the countries that have the most resources to respond to the needs of reconstruction, rehabilitation and support to the populations".
Therefore, he points out "an enormous selfishness of the countries of the north in refusing to accept all the responsibilities, including those that they assumed in the Paris Agreement, of solidarity with the countries of the south".