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UNHCR chief warns anti-terrorism fight must not weaken protection for refugees

UNHCR chief warns anti-terrorism fight must not weaken protection for refugees

Ruud Lubbers
Cautioning that the global fight against terrorism might weaken international laws meant to protect refugees and asylum seekers, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, told the Security Council today that such people risked becoming “convenient scapegoats and may be unfairly victimized.”

In a statement to an open meeting of the UN Security Council on the links between refugees and international peace and security, Mr. Lubbers said refugees and asylum seekers must not be discriminated against because their religion, ethnicity, national origin or political affiliation were somehow assumed to link them to terrorism.

“Governments must avoid resorting to the mandatory or arbitrary detention of asylum seekers, and to procedures that do not comply with the standards of due process,” Mr. Lubbers said. “Detention of asylum seekers must remain the exception, not the rule.”

Turning to regional developments, Mr. Lubbers cautioned that if the security situation in Afghanistan continued to deteriorate, the country would slide back into a “1992-like situation.” He expressed his strong support for the position taken yesterday by the UN’s top envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, to expand the UN-mandate International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) beyond Kabul to provide security to other parts of the country.

In Africa, Mr. Lubbers said that despite unresolved conflict and political instability there were some hopeful signs in the Great Lakes region.

He also welcomed the deployment last year of the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but added that the lack of access remained one of the main challenges for the refugee agency. He said he hoped that further UN deployment in the country would lead to improved access.