Amnesty condemns abuse of refugee rights

Rights group says state authorities and employers are responsible for suffering of millions of refugees and migrants.

Last Modified: 23 May 2013 03:00
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International aid organisations are appealing for more funds to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan [AFP]

The rights of millions of refugees and migrants have been abused in the past year, Amnesty International has said in its annual report on global human rights.

The London-based rights group said on Wednesday that state authorities and employers were equally responsible for the suffering of vulnerable groups.

"The world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place" said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, at a news conference to launch the report in London.

He said the world had failed Syrian people who are caught up in the spiralling conflict which has seen 4.5 million people displaced from their homes inside the country and 1.5 million living in refugee camps in neighbouring countries.

"The international community has a serious responsibility here because we often have western and richer governments going into conferences and pledging, but they never support in real terms, I mean the support is never equal to the pledges they make," Shetty told Reuters news agency.

"The international community cannot just watch and continue to have more conferences and meetings without any action," he added.

Syria crisis

Shetty said Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey cannot cope with the daily flood of refugees fleeing Syria and that European countries must step in to help, either by taking in displaced Syrians or providing more money to help fund refugee camps.

"In terms of the burden sharing of refugees and refugee settlement, Europe is appallingly low. So it's partly what they can do in terms of long term refugee settlement, but even when the refugees are in the neighbouring countries they can give a lot more support to those countries to provide for the refugees," he said.

Amnesty is calling for the UN Security Council to do more to stop the civil war. It wants to see the Syrian conflict referred to the International Criminal Court, an asset freeze on the Syrian regime, and an arms embargo against the Syrian government.

Britain and France are pushing for the EU to relax an arms embargo on Syrian rebel forces and on Tuesday in the United States a Senate panel voted overwhelmingly to send weapons to the rebels fighting Assad's government.

But Amnesty warns that countries should be very careful before they arm rebels.

"We have enough evidence in the recent past of violations taking place from the opposition forces. So I mean the risk is there, so that is precisely why we are saying that if you are going to arm the rebels you have to go through a systematic risk assessment process," Shetty said.

Several governments came under fire for their failure to protect the rights of migrant domestic workers, including Hong Kong, Jordan, Lebanon and Kuwait.

In Jordan there were reports of foreign maids being "confined to their employers' homes, denied pay, having their passports seized or being physically, psychologically or sexually abused by their employers", Amnesty said.

In Europe, Amnesty accused governments of "putting the lives of migrants and asylum-seekers at risk" with their border control operations - and warned that foreign workers face increasing hostility there because of job shortages.

"Certainly in the context of the austerity measures within Europe, I would say there has been a ratcheting up of the anti-immigration scapegoating refugees and asylum seekers," Shetty said.


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