International Response to Mediterranean Migrant and Refugee Crisis Should Protect Human Rights
New York City – As the United Nations considers authorizing the use of force to stop boats from carrying migrants and refugees across the Mediterranean, Human Rights First urges the United States to press the United Nations and European allies to develop a comprehensive plan that adheres to international law and protects the rights of refugees fleeing violence and persecution.
“Simply blocking refugees and migrants from crossing borders by land or sea is not the answer. It is also counterproductive and ineffective,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “The United States and the European Union should address these challenges through a comprehensive approach that adheres to human rights law and makes the protection of refugees a top priority.”
Due to increasing violence, conflict, and human rights abuses, the number of refugees and displaced people worldwide has reached the highest levels since World War II. So far this year, more than 1800 asylum seekers and migrants have died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe – 30 times more than last year – half of whom are reportedly Syrians.
Human Rights First continues to urge the Unites States to lead a global initiative in partnership with the international community to improve access to protection for refugees crossing the Mediterranean and those fleeing the violence in Syria into border states, including through significantly increased resettlement of Syrian refugees. About 4 million refugees have fled the violence, persecution, and terror in that country, with Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey hosting the overwhelming majority of them. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has asked countries to resettle 130,000 Syrian refugees, but state commitments have fallen far short of that modest goal. The United States has resettled only about 800 since the beginning of the Syrian conflict.
“As the world leader in refugee resettlement, the United States should champion refugee protection in the face of proposals that would leave migrants and asylum seekers to drown at sea, detained, stranded in countries where their lives and basic rights are at risk, or blocked from escaping human rights abuses,” added Acer.