Subject: REFUGEES: GOVERNMENTS CALLOUS ABOUT FATE OF REFUGEES
From: Amnesty International
Date: Wed, 2 Apr 1997 06:35:02 -0500
AI INDEX: ACT/34/ 09/97
News Service 48/97
19 MARCH 1997
REFUGEES: GOVERNMENTS CALLOUS ABOUT FATE OF REFUGEES
Governments increasingly show a callous disregard for the impact of
policies deliberately designed to prevent people who are genuinely
persecution from reaching safety in their countries, Amnesty
said today as it launched a global campaign on refugees.
"The new battery of techniques aimed at keeping refugees at bay
that countless people never get a real chance to escape from torture
death threats or are sent back to countries where they run a real risk
getting thrown in jail or handed over to executioners," Amnesty
The organization said there are more than 15 million men, women
children refugees and a further 20 million people internally displaced
because they have been forced to leave their homes but have not
"The vast majority are women and children -- with women
at risk before, during and after they flee," Amnesty International
"Rape is increasingly used to torture and terrorize women into flight,
especially in conflicts such as in Afghanistan, Rwanda and the former
With the scale of human rights violations that force people into
continuing unabated, the number of those displaced is likely to grow
coming years, as shown most recently by the political crisis which has
unfolding in Albania in the past month.
At this stage it appears that the Italian authorities are
Albanian asylum-seekers. Amnesty International is monitoring the
crisis and urging all governments to fulfill their obligations toward
"While the number of people needing international protection
to grow, governments seem more concerned with keeping refugees away
their borders," Amnesty International said. "They should at least have
decency to protect refugees when human rights tragedies unfold."
In 1951, in the aftermath of the Second World War, states
the Refugee Convention in order to deal with the mass outpourings of
people. One of the key principles spelled out in the Convention and
international law is that of non-refoulement -- that no one should be
forcibly returned to a country where his or her life or freedom would
"Yet nearly half a century after the Convention was drafted,
more than ample evidence that this principle is simply not respected
that people are in fact sent back to countries where their life or
is at risk," Amnesty International said.
In one case, a Zairian woman escaped from a military prison where
was tortured and sought asylum in Sweden. The Swedish authorities
her claim on several grounds, including their view that the president
not control the military and therefore torture by soldiers does not
constitute state persecution.
In another case in July last year, the Belgian authorities
Bouasria Ben Othman to Algeria after refusing his asylum application.
Despite repeated efforts, Amnesty International received no
from the Belgian authorities about his location, until 19 November
they said the Algerian authorities said he had been arrested upon
in Algeria, released and rearrested. On 26 November Bouasria appeared
Algerian television saying he was well and that people should stop
about him. A week later Algerian police told his family that he had
himself out of a window and died. However, there are allegations that
died as a result of torture.
"Governments have made the rules on the refugees and they should
play by those rules," Amnesty International said. "The increasingly
restrictive approach that more and more governments take towards
makes a mockery of their international and national obligations."
This restrictive approach includes limiting access to their
harshly applying asylum criteria, detaining asylum-seekers,
protecting or forcibly repatriating refugees, and fining airlines and
shipping companies if they carry people who do not have travel
For example, after the military coup in Haiti in September 1991,
Haitian refugees tried to reach the USA and more than 38,000 risked
lives at sea. In June 1992 the USA intercepted Haitian boat people at
and summarily returned them, without any examination of their asylum
"While governments may have the right to control their borders,
do not have the right to refuse people access to asylum procedures,"
Amnesty International said.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina alone, more than half the population was
uprooted by the war with an estimated 1.3 million people displaced
the country and another million or more refugees abroad.
Since November 1996, the massive repatriation of refugees in the
Lakes region without clear guarantees of safety on their return has
marked by a shocking disregard for the rights, dignity and safety of
hundreds of thousands of people. Disparate groups from Rwanda, Zaire
Burundi are in grave danger of human rights abuses, and they are not
getting the protection they deserve from the international community.
"If the repatriation solution is needed, it must be defined in
that give human rights considerations the highest priority at every
Amnesty International said.
The human rights organization is calling on the world's
fulfill their international obligations for the protection of
They must support the efforts of the UNHCR and other international
organizations who work to protect and help refugees. They must remind
communities that refugees need protection, they are not abusing the
system for their own gain, they are not economic migrants, they are
moving en masse for illegitimate reasons.
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