Chief of UN refugee agency calls for aid to countries to curb people smuggling

Chief of UN refugee agency calls for aid to countries to curb people smuggling

Ruud Lubbers
The top United Nations refugee official today called for a policy of “burden sharing” to help host countries near the origin of outflows accommodate refugees and thus curb people smuggling and related transnational crime.

“Promoting access to proper protection and solutions would indeed reduce crime and irregular flows,” UN Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers told a regional ministerial conference on people smuggling in Bali, Indonesia.

Advocating the concept of “Convention Plus” as an expansion of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Mr. Lubbers said: “This is about protection in the context of solutions, effective repatriation and burden sharing which should help to reduce secondary flows, assisting countries near the origin of the refugees to allow people to stay there.

“Convention Plus is about sharing responsibilities and to spread the burden of refugees,” he added. “Convention Plus can assist also countries who are not yet signatories to the 1951 Convention, to include them in pragmatic arrangements to offer solutions to the benefit of all.”

Stressing the need to fight crime in the field of refugees, Mr. Lubbers added: “But to be effective in fighting crime, it is not sufficient to increase border control and attack criminal networks. You have been engaged in this for many years, but the problem is still with us.

“One needs to limit ‘the oxygen’ of this crime, to reduce the number of victims available to be exploited by criminal networks. You must therefore not only live up to the spirit of the1951 Convention, but also engage in comprehensive solutions – in Convention Plus. Solutions for refugees and burden sharing is not only a humanitarian and political challenge. It is also about fighting crime.”

Mr. Lubbers said that providing support to host-countries of refugees to give effective temporary protection and allow integration could make an enormous difference in terms of stabilizing populations and preventing them from moving on.

“It is important to go for burden sharing – not burden shifting – and to ensure that the desire of individual states to reduce the number of asylum-seekers is not pursued at the expense of neighbours or the international community,” he added.