Sunday, 17 January 2021

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"Rich countries must not become gated communities"

Photo Unit UNHCR / A Cry for Those in Peril on the Sea / Flickr2.0 Generic CC BY-NC 2.0

11 December 2014 – Instead of depicting migrants as 'invasive hordes', who are 'threatening our way of life', far more emphasis needs to be given to protecting rights and saving lives. That was the clear message of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein at the 2014 Dialogue on Protection Challenges.

Last September, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) released a new report, stating up to 75 per cent of migrants in 2014 are believed to have died in the Mediterranean. A sharp increase in numbers, compared to the estimated 700 deaths in 2013.

The seventh High Commissioner's Dialogue on Protection Challenges brought together State, NGO, and IGO participants, as well as academics and individual experts on the theme of ‘Protection at Sea’.

"Fatal Journeys Tracking Lives Lost during Migration" (IOM, 2014)

Grave human rights violations

Many of those who feel compelled to take to the sea, are refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless people and others seeking safety or a better life.

UN High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein stressed that States have a right to determine who enters their territory, but this is limited by the requirements of international law.

"When migrants are left to drift for weeks without access to food and water; when ships deliberately refuse to rescue migrants in distress; when children in search of family reunification are detained indefinitely, denied education and care, or returned to perilous situations – these are grave human rights violations."

A siege mentality

Additionally, many countries appear to view migrants as somehow undeserving of human rights, depicting them as invasive, by a belligerent vocabulary – people 'flooding', 'swamping', 'jumping the queue' or 'threatening our way of life'.

"The siege mentality fanned by an increasing number of populist leaders is disgraceful and dishonest, and must end. Indeed perhaps we can even say there is a mean-spiritedness that marks the general attitude in some countries," he said.

"Rich countries must not become gated communities, their people averting their eyes from the bloodstains in the driveway."

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