UNHCR chief welcomes regional commitments in Central Asia to protect migrant and asylum-seeker rights

Press Releases, 5 June 2013

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, welcomed today the collective commitment and resolve of the four Central Asian countries and other states in the region to improve legal procedures and strengthen cooperation to protect the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers during mixed migration movements.

High Commissioner Guterres called on governments to develop immigration policies that ensured basic human rights. "States have the right to define their own immigration and national security policies provided they do so in respect for human dignity and basic rights, and in ways that ensure international protection is granted to those who need it."

Guterres was attending the second Ministerial Conference on Refugee Protection and International Migration in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

In the first conference in 2011, Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, together with UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), had agreed on a cooperation and consultative platform known as the Almaty Process. The consultations also include other countries from the region that share related migration concerns, notably Afghanistan, Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

The UN refugee agency chief commended progress made in the last two years by saying, "The Almaty Process allows countries to develop response mechanisms that address the legitimate concerns of States, such as border management and security, while ensuring that those who wish to seek asylum can do so, irrespective of the circumstances in which they have arrived at the border."

Stressing the importance of broader regional cooperation while finding meaningful solutions for population movements in future, Guterres highlighted that people forced to leave their homes are often part of mixed migratory movements and finding quick solutions for them remains a challenge.

"Forced displacement today affects more people, and for longer periods of time, than only a decade ago. It is also growing in complexity."

He added conflict and upheaval were no longer the only reasons forcing people to abandon their homes. "In an increasingly imbalanced world, displacement is often compounded and reinforced by factors such as the effects of climate change, population growth, food insecurity and water scarcity."

This year's meeting was also attended by observers from the United States, European Union, , numerous international and regional organizations as well as representatives of civil society. The meeting was hosted by the Republic of Kazakhstan and co-organised by UNHCR and IOM.

Countries during the meeting agreed to continue regional dialogue and strengthen cooperation on migration to ensure respect for human rights, access to asylum and compliance with the principle of non-refoulement.

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