Security Concerns Overtaking Rights in Global Asylum Systems, Says UN Official

October 4th, 2007 - by admin

United Nations News Service – 2007-10-04 23:29:22

UNITED NATIONS (October 3, 2007) — The top protection official with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today warned that in more and more countries, the rights of individuals are being trumped by security concerns which are impacting the functioning of asylum systems.

“The world of borders is particularly shadowy, with interception, turn-arounds and refoulement taking place outside the frame of any proper scrutiny,” Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller told the annual meeting of the agency’s 72-nation Executive Committee.

Citing the findings of UNHCR’s annual report on international protection, she stated that “security is driving the operation of asylum systems in an increasing number of countries, contributing to the growth of a culture of thinking where rights are becoming peripheral.”

Particularly worrying is arbitrary detention, including of children, and the privatization of detention “which in some countries has turned into an industry,” she said.

Ms. Feller added that in some regions, asylum is a “lottery,” with the inconsistent application of the 1951 Refugee Convention among States.

“The widely divergent refugee recognition rate among States is a telling indicator, with research showing, for example, that persons from Iraq, Sri Lanka or Somalia have very different prospects of finding protection depending on where their claim is lodged,” she told the gathering.

While the report contained some positive news such as 700,000 refugees being able to return home in 2006, UNHCR was concerned about the growth of a class of “untouchables” deemed undesirable for resettlement, including politically sensitive ethnic groups, elderly persons, large families or refugees with low educational levels.

‘Marshall-like’ plan needed for Afghanistan, Pakistani official tells UN debate

2 October 2007 – Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary today called for the adoption of an ambitious international reconstruction plan for Afghanistan during his address to the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate.

“No country stands to gain as much as Pakistan from peace and stability in Afghanistan,” said Riaz Mohammad Khan, voicing support for “every initiative” that could help with rebuilding and national reconciliation in the war-ravaged country.

“The international community also has an important responsibility to help Afghanistan with a Marshall-like programme for reconstruction,” he said.

Reviewing three decades of conflict in Afghanistan, he said recent events have “impacted on our society, giving rise to terrorism and extremism.”

Pakistan, he said, is fighting Al-Qaida and other terrorist elements “with resolve and determination.”

While emphasizing the country’s efforts to counter extremism, he spoke out against those who would malign religions and reinforce divisions between Islam and the West. “Tolerating Islamophobia in the guise of freedom of expression is dangerous,” he warned.

“More than ever before, in this globalized world, we need understanding, harmony and building of bridges among all cultures and peoples.”

The Foreign Minister of Canada, Maxime Bernier, also urged a united international effort to help rebuild Afghanistan. “International organizations, including the UN, NATO and the World Bank, must work toward this common goal.”

He reviewed Canada’s contribution to Afghanistan, including its participation in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition in the country.

“The countries assisting Afghanistan are united in the conviction that there can be no reconstruction without security,” he said. “Democracy and political stability cannot flourish in a climate of terror.”

He cautioned that attention to development is also critical. “Long-term security requires a sustainable investment in the country’s development – the two go hand in hand.

Pointing to progress achieved so far with international support, he said, “Afghan police officers are being trained, Afghan refugees are returning home and Afghan children are learning to read and write.”

He called for efforts to carry out the Afghanistan Compact, a five-year development blueprint launched in January 2006 by the country and its international partners. “Strong UN stewardship of the Compact, alongside the Afghan Government, is critical to realizing this vision,” he said.

The Foreign Minister also urged leaders attending the Assembly session to support implementation of Security Council resolution 1776, which extended ISAF and called on Member States to contribute personnel, equipment and funding to its operations.

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