Refugee rights dropped from world racism conference

Date: 01/01/2001

Following the controversial debate surrounding reparations, the Geneva preparatory meeting of the UN World Conference Against Racism has recently decided to remove all reference to the 1951 Refugee Convention from the conference’s program of action, undermining its responsibility to fight the scourge of racism, xenophobia and related intolerances in the world. Lawyers for Human Rights joins Human Rights Watch and other refugee rights organisations in condemning this decision.

“Refugees and asylum seekers are often double victims of racism. They flee their countries to escape racism and ethnic intolerances, then many of them are again subject to racist and xenophobic treatment in their countries of refuge,” said Rachael Reilly, Refugee Policy Director at Human Rights Watch. It is a well-known fact that racism is both a cause and a result of forced displacement which in turn creates asylum seekers, refugees and internally displaced people.

Ironically, the decision to remove any reference to the Refugee Convention has come less than a week after the 50th anniversary of the international refugee instrument on July 28. Even more ironic is the fact that in December 2001 states are due for the first time, to formally reaffirm their commitment to the Refugee Convention and Protocol in Geneva, four months following the World Conference Against Racism.

Xenophobia is based on unfounded myths and stereotypes often resulting in violent actions towards foreigners. Increasingly asylum seekers and refugees come to South Africa for humanitarian assistance and are faced with racist and xenophobic citizens and officials. In this regard the SAPS are often criticised for their discriminatory practices towards foreigners, such as the police dog incident.

Lawyers for Human Rights urges the South African government and all other states participating in the Conference to reassert their humanitarian duties and recognise the growth of xenophobia and racism towards refugees and asylum seekers following which they need to take immediate action towards reinserting the 1951 Refugee Convention in the program of action of the WCAR.

For more details contactShani WintersteinAssistant Coordinator, Refugee Rights Project083 444 55569

Thank you for joining
Thank you for joining the LHR Newsletter, we will be in touch soon