Amnesty: world response to refugee crisis is “shameful”

Published June 15th, 2015 - 01:30 GMT

The world is witnessing the worst refugee crisis "of our era" and the international response is "shameful," Amnesty International said Monday.

The international human rights organization said that for the first time since the end of the Second World War, there are more than 50 million refugees worldwide.

It called for an international summit focussed on increasing international responsibility and burden sharing.

Noting that 86 per cent of the world's refugee population is hosted in developing countries, Amnesty called on states to resettle one million refugees in immediate need.

Saving lives should be an absolute priority in dealing with people at risk of death at sea or elsewhere, and "should never be trumped by any border control objectives," the group said.

It noted that the largest nationality among those making the risky crossing of the Mediterranean to Europe were Syrians, over four million of whom have fled their war torn country.

"Although media reports have regularly characterized those making the journey from North Africa to Europe as migrants, many are in fact refugees," Amnesty pointed out.

As of 31 May, the number who have drowned crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa this year stood at 1,865 compared to 425 during the same period in 2014, Amnesty said, pointing to the partially reversed decision by the European Union to replace Italy's Mare Nostrum search and rescue programme with a more limited border control mission.

It added that in south-east Asia, 300 refugees and migrants have died at sea due to starvation and dehydration, with countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand initially refusing to allow boats carrying migrants to accept them.

With almost four million Syrian refugees struggling to survive in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt alone, Amnesty said "no country should be left to deal with a massive humanitarian emergency with so little help from others, just because it happens to share a border with a country in conflict."

States should act to combat trafficking gangs and governments should refrain from fanning xenophobia by suggesting migrants are responsible for economic and social ills, Amnesty said.

The report lashed out at the Australian government, describing its hard-line approach to asylum-seekers attempting to arrive by boat as "particularly egregious."

The "deliberately harsh, humiliating conditions" at an Australian-run detention facility were "designed to pressure asylum seekers to return to their country of origin, regardless of whether or not they were refugees," the group charged.

Amnesty criticised the international community for failing to respond to the crises in sub-Saharan Africa, where there are an estimated 3 million refugees, including hundreds of thousands who have fled conflicts in Nigeria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Burundi in recent years.

"The refugee crises in Africa receives little or no attention in regional or global political forums. In 2013 fewer than 15,000 refugees from African countries were resettled and UN humanitarian appeals have been severely underfunded," the report said.

The report called for establishing a global refugee fund that will fulfil all UN humanitarian appeals for refugee crises and provide financial support to countries hosting large numbers of refugees.

It also appealed for the development of fair domestic systems to assess refugee claims and guarantee that refugees have access to basic services such as education and healthcare.


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