As states increase border controls, UNHCR calls for sensitivity for those fleeing persecution

Briefing Notes, 7 January 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 7 January 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

We are concerned whenever states propose measures that aim at preventing irregular migrants from entering their territory without simultaneously putting concrete guarantees in place for those seeking international protection. We have received many queries concerning recent statements made by Greece about the possibility of building a 12 km fence along its side of the border with Turkey in the Evros region.

While every State has the right to control its borders, it is clear that among the many people crossing Turkey toward the European Union, there are a significant number who are fleeing violence and persecution. Establishing border control mechanisms which are sensitive to the needs of people seeking protection is therefore vital.

Building fences rarely solves the underlying problem of migratory pressures, including those of persons seeking protection. As with other measures which indiscriminately block arrivals, there is a risk that those seeking asylum will resort to even riskier routes to safety a reason why large numbers of asylum-seekers today find themselves in the hands of people-smuggling rings.

The problem in Greece is compounded by the fact that the asylum system is still not functioning despite ongoing reform efforts. UNHCR is working with government partners to establish a fair process for assessing the claims of asylum seekers. At present, many thousands of asylum-seekers are living in limbo in Greece.

In Turkey, the Government continues to implement a geographic limitation to the 1951 Convention, thereby taking responsibility for granting asylum only to refugees who come from European countries. However, most asylum-seekers in Turkey originate from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Claims of asylum seekers of non-European origin in Turkey are assessed by UNHCR. Those who are found to be refugees are permitted to remain, pending resettlement to a third country. However, the number of resettlement places falls short of the needs and at present there are approximately 10,000 refugees awaiting resettlement from Turkey. UNHCR is encouraging more countries, and in particular EU Member States, to show solidarity with Turkey by participating in the resettlement effort.

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration: A 10-Point Plan of Action

A UNHCR strategy setting out key areas in which action is required to address the phenomenon of mixed and irregular movements of people. See also: Schematic representation of a profiling and referral mechanism in the context of addressing mixed migratory movements.

Mixed Migration

Migrants are different from refugees but the two sometimes travel alongside each other.

Muazzez Ersoy

Muazzez Ersoy

George Dalaras

George Dalaras

The makeshift camp at Patras

Thousands of irregular migrants, some of whom are asylum-seekers and refugees, have sought shelter in a squalid, makeshift camp close to the Greek port of Patras since it opened 13 years ago. The camp consisted of shelters constructed from cardboard and wood and housed hundreds of people when it was closed by the Greek government in July 2009. UNHCR had long maintained that it did not provide appropriate accommodation for asylum-seekers and refugees. The agency had been urging the government to find an alternative and put a stronger asylum system in place to provide appropriate asylum reception facilities for the stream of irregular migrants arriving in Greece each year.The government used bulldozers to clear the camp, which was destroyed by a fire shortly afterwards. All the camp residents had earlier been moved and there were no casualties. Photographer Zalmaï, a former refugee from Afghanistan, visited the camp earlier in the year.

The makeshift camp at Patras

Greece: Refugee Crisis in EuropePlay video

Greece: Refugee Crisis in Europe

Over 100,000 refugees have arrived to Greece by sea this year. UNHCR is mobilizing emergency teams, resources and delivering basic humanitarian assistance in order to address the most urgent gaps and support government efforts. Volunteers, local communities and NGOs are providing invaluable assistance but they need support.

Turkey: Midyat refugeesPlay video

Turkey: Midyat refugees

Turkey is now the largest refugee-hosting country in the world with more than 2 million refugees on its soil. It has built a network of 24 camps to house more than a quarter of million refugees. One of those camp is Midyat.
4 Million Syrian refugeesPlay video

4 Million Syrian refugees

Syrian refugee mother Aziz and her family stand in their flooded tent in an informal settlement in Faida in the Bekaa Valley.