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ICRC adds voice to refugee debate

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has rejected allegations that Europe is facing a wave of refugees from northern Africa.

In an interview with the Sonntag newspaper Jakob Kellenberger said the influx was not a refugee problem but a migration issue.

He said it would be helpful if politicians made the distinction between people who leave their countries for economic reasons and persecuted people who have a right to asylum according to the Geneva refugee convention.

Kellenberger said he was very concerned about the situation in Syria and warned of further violence in Ivory Coast despite the arrest of the deposed president, Laurent Gbagbo.

He added that the ICRC last week visited more than 150 detainees in Libya. The Swiss-run humanitarian organisation on Friday announced the opening of a permanent office in the capital, Tripoli.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR