Practical Ways to Address Xenophobic Violence

Refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and others perceived as “foreign” have been the frequent victims of violent attacks around the world. For several years, Human Rights First has worked to bring this problem to the attention of governments and show them how to combat it.

Last week at a U.N. committee meeting, I presented our recommendations for addressing xenophobic violence. The purpose of the meeting—officially the Fourth Session of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards—was to determine whether there are gaps in international law hampering efforts to address xenophobia and if so, how these gaps can be filled.

I pointed to the relevant international legal standards that already exist. Before creating new legal standards, States must honor their obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and implement the recommendations on xenophobia and xenophobic violence put forth by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. I also highlighted the need to address xenophobic violence alongside other forms of bias-motivated violence rather than in isolation, given that forms of bias may overlap or that people may face discrimination or violence due to more than one aspect of their identity.

Practical steps states can take to strengthen their efforts to prevent and respond to xenophobic violence include:

Senior leaders speak out against xenophobic violence;

  1. Develop domestic laws that address xenophobic violence alongside other forms of bias-motivated violence;
  2. Strengthen police and justice responses to xenophobic violence;
  3. Develop mechanisms to monitor and report on xenophobic violence; and
  4. Reach out and build links with communities affected by xenophobic violence.

To read Human Rights First’s background paper, please click here. To read our 2011 report Combating Xenophobic Violence, which provides recommendations for states, UN agencies and civil society to address xenophobic violence, please click here.

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Published on April 18, 2012

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