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Lubbers addresses Human Rights Commission

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Lubbers addresses Human Rights Commission

21 March 2001

GENEVA - United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers today (Wednesday) said violations of human rights, violence, racism and xenophobia were to blame for the world's growing number of uprooted people.

"The link between human rights and refugees is - from one optic - a relationship of cause and effect," he said.

In a speech to the annual session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Lubbers urged governments as well as international and national institutions to do more to prevent situations in which people are forced from their homes.

"Actually preventing the descent toward persecution, massive human rights violations and open conflict is, of course, very difficult in the real world. But the possibility of averting such suffering - not to mention the enormous social and economic costs that typically follow - should justify and inspire our efforts," he said.

Addressing the issue of global migration, Lubbers said mass movements of people in search of better economic prospects have led to states creating "a daunting array of obstacles aimed at preventing migrants from reaching their territory." As a result, he said, many genuine refugees have no choice but to resort to trafficking and smuggling networks.

"Today, refugees and economic migrants - along with this criminal element - have become seriously confused - even assimilated - in the public mind. Extremist politicians have been quick to exploit public fears - stereotyping refugees as economically motivated, a burden a danger to public health and a social threat," he said.

Lubbers reiterated UNHCR's backing for the 1951 Refugee Convention, which marks its 50th anniversary later this year, and its validity today. He said UNHCR was involved in a series of global consultations with governments and rights groups to look at ways of strengthening the commitment to the Convention, while at the same time addressing issues that are not covered by it.