Keep borders open to refugees fleeing conflict. In the aftermath of the recent violent attacks in Paris and Beirut, international development organization Oxfam urges all countries to keep their borders open and accessible to people fleeing conflict and persecution.
“As the investigation into the Paris attacks proceeds, we need to wait to see the full facts and not jump to any conclusions. All victims of political violence deserve our condolences, solidarity and support. The refugees we work with are living in increasing desperate conditions with dwindling assistance and limited ability to work legally to support themselves and their families. We therefore urge the EU and other countries, to maintain open border crossings even while security measures may be increased at those borders” said Attila Kulcsar, Oxfam International’s migration media officer.
There are currently close to 60 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced and stateless people around the globe and the number is rising. This is the highest number of people who had to flee their homes since World War II. Over 4 million Syrians have fled horrific violence in their country in order to seek safety, including in Europe. This year, 744,175 arrivals to Europe by sea alone have been recorded, 53 percent of them Syrian nationals. The journey to Europe is in many cases full of abuse, exploitation, and human rights violations, including sexual abuse against women and children.
States have an obligation to take security measures for the protection of their citizens, Oxfam said. They also have a duty under the 1951 Refugee convention to provide protection for asylum-seekers fleeing violence and persecution. “Controls on movement – at borders or within them – should be implemented in respect of people’s rights, whether that is the right to be safe from violence or to claim asylum. Any increase in border control and checkpoints should be carried out in such a way that all people seeking safety can reach it without unreasonable delay or discrimination” Kulcsar added.
There are news reports of hate crimes and harassments against Muslims and refugees after the attack on Paris. “We must not let divisiveness and xenophobic rhetoric prevent people who have fled conflict the chance to live in hope and dignity. Refugees must have the opportunity to work so they can support themselves and their families and they must have access to basic services such as healthcare and education. This would allow refugees to contribute to the economies and societies of their hosts, and is also key for an eventual return home” said Kalayaan Pulido – Constantino, Policy and Advocacy Manager for Asia.
Oxfam welcomed the commitment of G20 leaders over the weekend to ensure refugees right to work, access healthcare and education and provide safe and legal routes to other countries. They called on country governments to step up and implement these without delay.