World Refugee Day: UN Security Council’s “spectacular failures” cause millions to flee

With Syria Crisis Action vigil in Trafalgar square, London, March 2014. © Amnesty International

The globe’s self-styled leaders are lagging far-behind the developing world when it comes to bearing the burden of the global refugee crisis.

Amnesty International

Press Release

20 June 2014

The UN Security Council is spectacularly failing to maintain international peace and security, Amnesty International said on World Refugee Day. The organization urged Security Council members to act more decisively to protect civilians and prevent millions more people being driven away from their homes.

The Security Council’s, and in some cases the UN Secretariat’s, ineffective or delayed responses to ongoing conflicts in Syria, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Iraq, have allowed violence to spiral and countless communities to be devastated before meaningful action, if any, is taken.

“Apathy, political alliances and point-scoring must cease trumping human rights concerns when it comes to decision-making at the Security Council,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Deputy Director for Global Issues at Amnesty International.

“While diplomats debate points of order, houses are being burned to the ground and families forced on the run. Long delays and vetoed resolutions are plaguing the supposed ‘strong arm’ of the UN.”

The delayed deployment of UN peacekeepers to the Central African Republic means thousands have already been forced to flee before troops arrive.

The repeated failure of the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court and the resulting lack of accountability has contributed to the world’s largest displacement crisis.

Meanwhile, those countries that have blocked any meaningful action on Syria are contributing the least to the global refugee crisis. Russia and China resettled zero refugees in 2013.

Their donations to the UN appeal for Syria, which secured the largest funds in the organization’s history, are equally pitiful. Russia contributed 0.3% of those funds in 2013 and 0.1% in 2014, while China contributed 0.1% in 2013 and 0.4% in 2014.

Despite their relative economic disadvantage, developing countries are bearing the brunt of the crisis, with Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Pakistan the top five refugee hosting countries.  In 2013, three of those countries – Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey – registered receiving a total of 1,524,979 refugees from Syria alone.

By contrast, the USA records resettling just 36 Syrian refugees in 2013 – although it resettles thousands more from other countries. The 28 countries of the EU have pledged to resettle 30,498 Syrians, although the vast majority – 25,500 – will be resettled in Germany.

In 2013, at least 435,000 people sought asylum in the EU, but just 136,000 people were granted it.

“The globe’s self-styled leaders are lagging far-behind the developing world when it comes to bearing the burden of the global refugee crisis,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali.

“Given the economic advantages rich countries have over poor, it’s doubly shocking to see them shirking their responsibility to protect refugees to such a ludicrous extent – this must end.”

Despite the low number of refugees they have to deal with, countries in the developed world often subject refugees and asylum seekers to rights abuses. Greece frequently metes out violence and intimidation to the refugees and migrants arriving at its borders in search of protection, safety and better futures in Europe.
Amnesty International has documented several cases where people have been stripped naked, had their possessions stolen, and held at gunpoint before being pushed back across the border to Turkey.

Australia, which has one of the lowest population densities anywhere in the world, is another offender, hiding serious human rights violations of refugees and asylum seekers at its offshore processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.

Detainees are held in cramped compounds where they endure stifling heat without adequate shade or shelter and are denied sufficient water and medical help. Many have risked their lives in their efforts to reach Australia.

“There is never an excuse for ill-treatment, but it’s particularly abhorrent to see countries subjecting refugees and asylum seekers to treatment they wouldn’t dream of visiting on their own nationals,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali.

“It’s time for governments in developed countries to stop thinking in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Refugees and asylum seekers have often endured terrible ordeals – they deserve to be protected and treated with humanity and dignity.”