UN refugee agency applauds new Nordic campaign to protect asylum seekers

UN refugee agency applauds new Nordic campaign to protect asylum seekers

Iraqi refugees in Sweden
The United Nations refugee agency is supporting a new initiative by 20 Nordic non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to persuade their Governments to review their policies towards asylum seekers fleeing generalized violence and armed conflict.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted that the simultaneous launch yesterday in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden of the “Keep Them Safe” campaign sought to remedy a gap in the Nordic protection regime under which failed asylum seekers, including Iraqis, Sri Lankans and Somalis, are left in legal limbo or sent back to countries affected by violence – contrary to UNHCR guidelines.

“UNHCR supports and welcomes this campaign as it aims to stimulate discussion on and identify solutions to a critical gap in international protection,” Agency regional representative Hans ten Feld said. “A first step in closing this gap would be a full and consistent adherence to UNHCR’s protection recommendations.”

The NGOs say some reasons given by people in their applications for asylum are seen as more legitimate than others. “People fleeing violent conflict fight an uphill battle to be granted asylum in the Nordic countries,” they declared. “Being labelled as ‘merely’ fleeing ‘generalized violence,’ one is seldom granted protection and asylum in our part of the world.”

Mr. ten Feld said protection gaps for asylum seekers fleeing violence and rights abuses existed in both the law and its interpretation. People risked becoming victims of failed protection twice: in their country of origin and in the country in which they seek asylum.

The campaign will last until the end of the year. Organizations taking part include national Red Cross societies and regional offices of Amnesty International as well as the Danish Refugee Council and the Norwegian Refugee Council, both close UNHCR partners. UNHCR has also provided assistance by facilitating a regional dialogue between the campaign signatories.