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We all have the responsibility to protect refugees, respect human rights and uphold our humanity

17 June 2016
“As we commemorate World Refugee Day, we are deeply alarmed by the escalating violence and conflicts in many parts of the world, along with a culture of indifference, fear and intolerance which is increasingly permeating our societies,” says Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary of PSI.

According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, at the end of 2014, around 60 million people had been displaced worldwide due to persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations. Nearly 20 million are refugees, of whom more than half are children. These people flee their countries in fear for their lives, only to face bigger risks, or even death, while crossing sea and land borders. According to the International Organization for Migration, in 2015, 3,771 migrants died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. In 2015, over 1 million people arrived in Europe by sea, which is five times more than in 2014. These large flows of migrants and refugees will continue unabated while the war in Syria, the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, instability in Libya, as well as in many parts of Africa rage on.

“People are fleeing for their lives and seeking protection. Yet States, particularly developed economies, are failing in their international humanitarian and human rights obligation to provide protection. Here in Europe, EU governments could not even agree to their fair share of the 1 million refugees who have come to seek protection. Have they forgotten that poorer countries are already hosting 86% of the world’s 20 million refugees?” asks Pavanelli.  “It is about time that every country, especially richer countries, takes a fair share of that responsibility. We all have a responsibility to protect refugees, respect human rights and uphold our humanity,” she declares.

“The recently concluded EU-Turkey Agreement on Refugees is simply unacceptable and must be condemned,” says Pavanelli.

The agreement is a “one-in, one-out deal” between EU and Turkey to return irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to Greece. This means that for every Syrian who is turned back from Greece to Turkey, the EU will take in another Syrian already in Turkey.

“The EU is boldly “outsourcing” its humanitarian and human rights obligations to other countries. PSI condemns such forms of agreements; they are immoral and violate human rights and humanitarian law tolerating mass expulsion, vis-à-vis the right to determination of individual cases, and treating refugees as commodities,” she says.

In the lead up to the United Nations High Level Summit on Large Flows of Migrants and Refugees on 19 September 2016, PSI calls on its affiliates to lobby their governments for rights-based policies to ensure that all migrants and refugees have access to public services, social protection and access to decent work in the labour market.

“Serious factors such as extreme poverty, repressive regimes, asymmetries in development, climate-related disasters and conflicts arising from the struggle for resources – will lead to more human displacement in the coming years. The time to act is now!”

More information:

Route of Shame in Geneva, Switzerland on 3 June 2016

Also see