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UNHCR says security and refugee protection have complementary goals


In a recent address to the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee in New York, UNHCR’s protection chief emphasized that contrary to popular belief, protecting refugees and ensuring the security of their receiving countries are complementary goals, according to a report by UNHCR.

“Measures to ensure access to safety and protection for those in need, including those fleeing terror, can also help safeguard the security of transit and host countries and communities,” Volker Türk told the committee.

Currently, there are some 21.7 million refugees worldwide. More than five million of these refugees have fled from the war in Syria, while most of them are seeking refuge in their neighboring countries to evade their war-torn homeland.

Some countries have placed restrictive border controls or visa requirements to regulate the influx of refugees, which some say is counter-intuitive to achieving security.

Türk warned that these kinds of tactics could worsen security risks by making refugees more susceptible to the exploits of smugglers and traffickers as well as terrorist groups.

He added that branding refugees as security threats “risks opening the door to xenophobic and racist rhetoric and can even lead to physical attacks directed against refugees.”

Türk said that the 1951 Refugee Convention as well other subsequent international accords and agreements have established more effective responses.

According to Türk, these agreements ensure an orderly processing of refugees through biometric registration and background screening, which ultimately improves the security of States at national borders and in the resettlement process.

The security measures also implement the necessary protections to safeguard the rights of refugees and those individuals seeking asylum.

“When asylum-seekers and refugees are promptly registered and have their status determined in a fair and efficient manner, States can be more confident of who is on their territory,” Türk said.

Türk, whose full speech can be viewed here, said that UNHCR continues to work with States to develop and implement protection-sensitive border management systems to ensure that refugees have access to work, education, and social services in their new host countries.

Previously reported, UNHCR and the European Union are working in Chad to help children of refugees fleeing war to receive ID cards.

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