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UNHCR forms partnership to address asylum detention issues

News Stories, 28 June 2013

GENEVA, June 28 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has signed an agreement with the International Detention Coalition (IDC) to strengthen joint efforts in addressing detention issues faced by asylum-seekers and stateless people. The partnership, signed in Geneva last week, seeks to prevent or reduce the use of detention by governments of people seeking international protection.

Seeking asylum is a basic human and legal right. The 1951 UN Refugee Convention provides that asylum-seekers should not be penalized for their illegal entry or stay, including by way of detention.

"UNHCR is concerned about the treatment of people who are forced to cross international borders in search of safety and end up in detention, often in substandard or prison-like conditions," said Volker Türk, UNHCR's director of international protection.

Under the new agreement, UNHCR and the IDC will work together and with governments to improve detention standards, provide technical cooperation and capacity building to authorities on alternatives to detention, carry out research and monitoring of detention facilities and share information on asylum-related detention and alternatives.

The IDC is a consortium of more than 300 non-governmental organizations working in more than 60 countries to defend the rights of individuals detained in mixed migratory flows, including asylum-seekers, refugees and the stateless.

"The IDC is a valuable partner of UNHCR and we look forward to working with them, together with governments, to provide real alternatives to detention. There are now many good examples of workable alternatives to detention that question the heavy and, in some countries, increasing use of detention," Türk said. He added that detention of refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people should be avoided, be considered a measure of last resort and only be applied according to international standards of necessity and proportionality.

IDC and UNHCR have been working together in areas of capacity building, technical advice and research in different countries where detention is heavily used for newly arrived asylum-seekers. NGOs, under the IDC umbrella, are working with detained people and on migration related detention issues, sharing resources and information to promote greater respect and protection for the human rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants.

To see the agreement, go to http://www.refworld.org/docid/51b86f344.html




Picking Up the Pieces in Sri Lanka

In an unprecedented response to a natural disaster, the U.N. refugee agency – whose mandate is to protect refugees fleeing violence and persecution – has kicked off a six-month, multi-million dollar emergency relief operation to aid tsunami victims in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Somalia. UNHCR has worked in Sri Lanka for nearly 20 years and has the largest operational presence in the country with seven offices, 113 staff and a strong network of partnerships in place. The day of the tsunami, UNHCR opened up its warehouses in the island nation and began distributing existing stockpiles – including plastic sheeting, cooking sets and clothing for 100,000 people.

UNHCR estimates that some 889,000 people are now displaced in Sri Lanka, including many who were already displaced by the long-running conflict in the north. Prior to the tsunami, UNHCR assisted 390,000 people uprooted by the war. UNHCR is now expanding its logistical and warehouse capacity throughout the island to facilitate delivery of relief items to the needy populations, including in the war-affected area. The refugee agency is currently distributing relief items and funding mobile health clinics to assist the injured and sick.

Picking Up the Pieces in Sri Lanka