File Photo of United Nations Flag. (AFP Photo)
UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres said today that people fleeing violence and war must not be shunned amid growing fears of terrorism after the deadly Paris attacks.
"Refugees are victims of terrorists and it's very important to make this distinction," the UN High Commissioner for Refugees since 2005 told a press conference in the Japanese capital.
The Paris attacks "were not caused by the refugee movement", Guterres stressed, calling the perpetrators "clearly home-grown".
Europe has been struggling for months to cope with its largest migrant crisis since World War II. But concerns about security have increased since Islamic State attackers killed 130 people in Paris this month in the worst such violence on French soil.
The attacks have stirred fears in Europe and North America that jihadists could try to blend in with refugees to gain entry to Europe or the US and strike later.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday urged the European Union to limit the number of migrants it allows into the bloc.
Valls said last week that some of the suspects in the Paris attacks took advantage of Europe's migrant crisis to "slip in" unnoticed.
Guterres said "chaotic" movements of refugees through the Balkans has led to a "feeling of insecurity" among Europeans.
He stressed that it was thus important for Europe to institute more organised migrant entry reception and screening at entry points to cope with the crisis.
"And then organise the distribution among all the European countries in a way that does not create the imbalance we have today" whereby countries such as Germany and Sweden bear by far the biggest burden, Guterres said.
A total of 60 million people worldwide have been driven from their homes by wars and persecution, an all-time high, surpassing the 50 million people displaced during World War II, according to UNHCR.
Guterres' visit to Japan comes shortly before he is due to step down. Italian diplomat Filippo Grandi has been appointed to take up the job as of January 1.
Guterres appeared at a joint press conference with Fast Retailing, the Japanese company that runs casual fashion chain Uniqlo.
Fast Retailing announced that it will provide $10 million worth of aid to the UN refugee agency over three years from 2016 and also plans to hand out winter underwear to refugees and displaced people in the Balkan states and Afghanistan.