Geneva – Human Rights First today called on nations from all corners of the globe, United Nations agencies and other international bodies to step up efforts to address ongoing xenophobic and other bias-motivated violence that affects – among others – refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants. In its report “Combating Xenophobic Violence,” the organization highlights examples of countries where these individuals are victimized by xenophobic, racist, anti-religious, homophobic and other bias-motivated attacks, and it lays outs a framework to more effectively combat such senseless violence. “Violence that targets individuals because of their identity is a fundamental human rights concern,” said Human Right First’s Paul LeGendre. “The failure to adequately address this problem impedes refugee protection and hinders integration. Although States and intergovernmental organizations have amassed an impressive body of obligations, political commitments, and research reports on the subject, nothing speaks louder than action. It’s time for nations and international bodies to put an end to violent manifestations of prejudice.” The report notes that xenophobic violence is a global problem that could escalate if not adequately addressed now. It finds that in this era of increased global migration and economic difficulties, individuals viewed as “foreign” are more vulnerable than ever. They often become easy targets of blame—and anger—for political, economic, and societal ills. “Combating Xenophobic Violence” outlines many of the serious challenges that xenophobic violence presents to the protection of human rights and includes a series of concrete recommendations for States. These recommendations are intended to guide States as they work to fulfill their obligation to protect all persons—including non-nationals—from xenophobic or other bias-motivated violence. Among the recommendations for States are the following:
- Acknowledge and condemn acts of bias-motivated violence whenever they occur.
- Enact hate crime laws, strengthen enforcement, and prosecute offenders.
- Monitor and report on attacks.
- Reach out to communities affected by violence to reduce fear, assist victims, and improve reporting of incidents.
The report comes as States gather in Geneva to recommit to the protection of refugees and stateless persons during a Dec. 7-8 ministerial meeting to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. States have been called upon to mark these anniversaries by pledging to take concrete steps to better protect these populations, including steps to protect them from xenophobic and bias-motivated violence. During this meeting, States are expected to announce some of these specific pledges. “Refugees, asylum seekers, displaced and stateless persons – as well as migrants and others viewed as “foreign” – are often marginalized, sometimes lack official legal status, and are particularly vulnerable to xenophobic or other bias-motivated violence,” noted Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “States should send a clear message that violence against these populations will not be tolerated, and that the perpetrators of xenophobic attacks will be held accountable.” Recognizing the importance of U.N. agencies, intergovernmental organizations, and other international entities, the report includes recommendations for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other bodies. The recommendations, based on the agencies’ respective mandates and responsibilities, include the following:
- Enhance operational guidance, strategies, and capacity.
- Report xenophobic and other bias-violence incidents and provide assistance to victims.
- Raise cases and advocate with States for improved responses and proactive action.
- Increase collaboration, develop global, regional, and local strategies, and define leadership and other roles.