Bangkok, June 20, 2011
Commemorating the 60th Anniversary of 1951 Refugee Convention Upholding the Rights of Refugees in the Asia Pacific
While commemorating the 60th Anniversary, APRRN would like to ask the governments of Asia Pacific region to make certain “pledges” towards upholding refugee rights worldwide.
We believe that the 60th anniversary commemoration of the 1951 Refugee Convention presents an opportunity to focus States’ attention on various problems that refugees, migrants, stateless and displaced persons are faced with.
These may include among others, xenophobia and hate crimes, discrimination, non-entree, detention, refoulement and absence of social protection. From an instrument designed to protect mostly those civilians fleeing the worse excesses of World War II, the 1951 Refugee Convention has developed into a set of principles, customary rules, and values that are now firmly embedded in the human rights framework, and are applicable to a far broader range of refugees. In addition, international refugee law has been affected by international humanitarian law and international criminal law (and vice versa). Thus, there is a reinforcing dynamic in the development of these complementary areas of law.
At the same time, in recent decades states have shown a renewed interest in managing migration, thereby raising issues of how to reconcile such interests with refugee protection principles. In addition, the emergence of concepts of participation and responsibility to protect promise has an impact on international refugee law. We have experienced that legal and social assistance is essential in order to help asylum seekers win recognition as refugees and help them restore their lives with dignity.
Categorically speaking, the post 9/11 world has witnessed increasing restrictions on asylum, narrowing anti-immigration policies and growing sentiments of xenophobia and suspicion, not to mention the government measures enacted and implemented today in the name of enhanced securitization of migration. The governments of the Asia-Pacific region are obliged to respect and safeguard the rights of refugees by the virtue of common humanity, international human rights obligations and the treaties governing refugees. Protection of refugees is not merely a charity but an obligation. Thus, we would take this opportunity to urge the States in the Asia Pacific to embrace the following pledges in the field of refugee rights regime:
Pledges by the Governments of Asia Pacific Region
[list class=”triangle green”][li]1. We shall consider accession to the Refugee Convention and Protocol (if it has not already done so) and incorporate an expanded refugee definition into the national laws, along with the accession to international human rights treaties relevant to refugee protection and also shall consider framing a regional arrangement specifically for refugees. Also, we shall consider enactment of national legislations in conformity with international standards without undue delay.[/li]
[li]2. We shall periodically review the validity of reservations and restrictive interpretations of the Convention and shall take into account the Conclusions adopted by UNHCR’s Executive Committee and guidelines on a range of refugee-related issues – in devising national systems of refugee protection.[/li]
[li]3. We shall respect, among others, the right to be able to escape, to be accepted, to be provided shelter, not to be penalized for seeking refuge and not to be exposed to the risk of return and recognise the basic human dignity including the right to preservation of a family unity, freedom of thought, religion and education.[/li]
[li]4. We shall adhere to the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability or other similar statuses and vow to fight the problem of xenophobia which has taken the form of bias-motivated violence–a pernicious form of discrimination in which individuals are targeted.[/li]
[li]5. We shall embrace the principle of non-refoulement on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion and ensure to reflect the difference between those seeking asylum and others who may want to enter a country for other reasons in national legislation and the right to enter and remain in the country of asylum without arbitrary detention.[/li]
[li]6. We shall institute a fair Refugee Status Determination process to identify those who deserve protection with specific aspects of refugee problems and ensure to comply with the States’ obligations to offer a fair and efficient legal procedure for meaningful remedies.[/li]
[li]7. We shall provide guidance, information and services to the asylum seekers about different aspects of their social situation and ensure to the fullest extent possible the right to survival, access to services and a social safety net through different stages of asylum procedures.[/li]
[li]8. We express our commitment to provide UNHCR with information on the number and condition of refugees on the national territory, the ratification status and implementation of the Refugee Convention, and the laws, regulations and decrees in force related to refugees and allow UNHCR’s access across the nation’s territory.[/li][/list]