UN refugee agency asks states to respect access to asylum

2 September 2005

The United Nations refugee agency today expressed consternation over the reported death earlier this week of a 17-year-old boy from Cameroon in the Spanish North African enclave of Melilla and said all governments need to ensure that their immigration policies are carried out with respect for human rights.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a press briefing in Geneva that the UN agency trusts that the inquiry announced by Spanish authorities will shed light on these events.

According to media and other reports currently being investigated, the boy died as the result of injuries sustained during a clash between immigrants and border guards from the Spanish Guardia Civil which took place after a group of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa entered Spanish territory by jumping over the fence separating the enclave from Morocco.

The incident, which also reportedly left several persons injured and others apparently summarily expelled, highlights the dramatic situation along the borders of the Spanish enclaves, where people fleeing persecution, war and violence and who need international protection are mixed in with economic migrants. According to the information currently available, there are no indications that the boy from Cameroon was a potential refugee, Ms. Pagonis said.

UNHCR information indicates that over 10 per cent of all irregular migrants originating from sub-Saharan Africa arriving in the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla are admitted to the asylum procedure in Spain, Ms. Pagonis said.

She said UNHCR advocates for immigration policies in all countries to include safeguards allowing refugees and asylum-seekers an effective opportunity to have access to asylum procedures. All governments need to ensure that their immigration control policies are carried out with respect for human rights, she added.

UNHCR also recommends that the border authorities continue to receive appropriate training on their responsibilities and the proper application of relevant international law. Immigration control procedures need to be in accordance with international human rights legislation and Spanish law, she said.

 

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