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UN refugee chief urges protection for refugees

UN refugee chief urges protection for refugees in ‘irregular’ movements

The head of the United Nations refugee agency today urged European and African nations to work together to uphold the rights of refugees in ‘irregular’ migrations – situations where migrants and refugees move alongside each other, often without requisite documentation and with the aid of smugglers.

“While recognizing the difficulties that such movements can pose for States in terms of national and local security, we must ensure that the measures taken to curb irregular migration do not prevent refugees from gaining the international protection which they need and to which they are entitled,” High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said as he unveiled a 10-point plan on the phenomenon at the Euro-African Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development being held in the Moroccan capital of Rabat.

The people who move in this manner often place their lives at risk, are obliged to travel in inhumane conditions and may be exposed to exploitation and abuse, said Mr. Guterres, noting that States regard such movements as a threat to their sovereignty and security.

The 10-point plan sets out key areas in which comprehensive action is required to address the issues of mixed and irregular migratory movements in a coherent and practical way in countries of origin, transit and destination.

While recognizing that border controls are essential for combating international crime, including smuggling and trafficking, and to avert security threats, the plan stresses the need for practical protection safeguards to ensure that such measures are not applied in an indiscriminate or disproportionate manner and do not lead to refugees being returned to countries where their life or liberty would be at risk.

The plan also identifies the need for training and clear instructions for border guards and immigration officials so they know how to respond to asylum applications, and how to meet the needs of separated children, victims of trafficking and other groups with special needs.

Mr. Guterres said timely solutions were needed for both refugees and migrants, and that refugees in particular should be provided protection and solutions in areas close to their countries of origin, but there was no doubt that migration would continue. “Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants will continue to enter Europe,” he said. “Indeed, the logic of globalization and demographic change is such that their numbers seem certain to increase in the years to come.”

The High Commissioner encouraged European countries “to respond to this situation in a positive manner, by contributing to responsibility-sharing arrangements, by providing protection to those people who need it, and by ensuring that the public debate on asylum and migration issues is conducted in a calm and rational manner.”

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