MSF says refugees are being betrayed

Millions abandoned by the failure to uphold the Refugee Convention.
December 13, 2001 - The international medical relief organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says that that its daily work with refugees around the world shows that the 1951 Refugee Convention, which is being re-affirmed today in Geneva, is being routinely flouted. So often those fleeing conflict do not get the opportunity to seek asylum and find safe refuge. Instead, MSF sees frequent examples of refugees being contained within national borders; trapped in the violence they are trying to escape. The case of Afghanistan shows how the borders of neighbouring countries can be closed and a whole people held hostage at gunpoint. Around the world, the rapid growth in the number of internally displaced people is testament to this cynical policy. As is the desperation of families, who borrow money or hand over relations as hostages to smugglers so that they can escape. At the same time, richer countries are refusing to share the responsibility of protecting and assisting refugees who manage to stay in neighbouring states. Without help, those states are even less likely to open their borders and care for people who cross them. Many states are interpreting the Refugee Convention in the most restrictive manner, rather than as a way of offering genuine protection to those fleeing persecution. Wealthy countries are trying to protect themselves against refugees, instead of setting an example to those who have tried to deal with millions. All states should:
  • respect fully the basic right of people to flee from their country when their life or safety are threatened and to seek asylum across international borders
  • honour their commitment to sharing the financial burden carried by states hosting large numbers of refugees
  • give political and financial support to organisations such as the UNHCR in ways that reinforce the existing legal standards of asylum, hosting and voluntary repatriation. At the moment, the victims of war and terror are being further betrayed by the system of international protection. MSF believes that the existing framework of international law must be fully and honestly observed. So, MSF welcomes the re-affirmation of the 1951 Refugee Convention and asks states to work within its spirit to respect the rights of refugees and the displaced.