Worldwide approach needed for the protection of refugees

7 October 2018

Worldwide approach needed for the protection of refugees

This week SP Member of Parliament Jasper van Dijk produced five questions and answers which the SP wants to see as the basis for the protection of refugees. These proposals proceed seamlessly from my own 2015 plan as well as from the Global Compact for Refugees which the UN High Commission for Refugees presented this month to the General Assembly. Support from the international community must be drastically increased and people should not be left to live for long periods in camps. The most vulnerable people who cannot stay in their region must be resettled. And an end must be put as rapidly as possible to the horrors which people have to confront on their way to a safe haven.

The UN plans come under four headings: seeking solutions to the question of why people have to flee their countries; aid to countries which have - often for years – had to accommodate millions of refugees; increasing the possibilities for resettlement; and access for refugees to education and work. The SP's plans underline these principles. Too often people look away when it comes to the misery and squalor in refugee camps in countries like Jordan, Pakistan and Uganda. Humanitarian assistance coupled with development aid must be used to give these countries the capacity at last to offer dignified accommodation to the refugees and to help them to help themselves via education and work. Vulnerable groups, such as members of minorities for whom it isn't safe even in the camps, must be resettled, which is why there must be sufficient places for such resettlement. And that is the task of the entire international community.

On the other hand we must, as Jasper van Dijk argues, “be honest with the people who, according to that treaty, don't qualify for a residence permit, people who want to come to Europe to live and work here, but who have no right to asylum. They must be returned as quickly as possible.”

In 2015 I wrote an asylum plan for the European Union, in which I also emphasised the role of the UN. Zoom out and you'll see the squalor in the region's camps, the horrors with which refugees have to contend on their way to Europe, and on the other hand what happens during our financially wasteful procedures under which in the end only the strongest applicants are admitted to the EU. In my view the UN organisation for refugees, the UNHCR, could play a far greater role in European asylum policy, taking refugees recognised as such in the EU to accommodation in their own region, provided the organisation is convinced that such accommodation is worthy of human beings and that the refugees are not amongst the most vulnerable. On the other hand the UNHCR could ensure that vulnerable refugees can go straight to third countries, including those in the EU. As it states in the Treaty on Refugees, refugees can best be accommodated close to their own countries. It should not be necessary to undertake appallingly dangerous journeys to the EU in order to find protection. That demands a worldwide approach to the safety of refugees. In this I believe that the UN and the SP are in agreement.

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