Annual UNHCR consultations with NGOs
Boat people: Different people, different needs and rights to protection
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Annual UNHCR consultations with NGOs
GENEVA, 1 July 2010—Stressing the need for a first focus on immediate response to all individuals who have undergone dangerous border crossings, and a secondary focus on differentiation for the particular rights and responses that many are entitled to under international and regional conventions, ICMC DRIVE Referral Coordinator, Alice Bloomfield chaired a hearing on boat people among key NGO, IFRC, UNHCR and UNODC representatives.
I am honored, on behalf of the International Catholic Migration Commission, to present the board and open this hearing on boat people entitled “Different people, different needs and rights to protection”.
As you have probably heard from several participants at this 3-day NGO consultation, including UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller during the opening plenary, it is high time that all of our organizations look with greater urgency, purpose and coherence at how we organize assistance and protection both to refugees under the 1951 Convention and also to others who, though they may fall outside the most strict reading of that Convention, have not only needs but their own distinct rights to procedural and genuine protection under other conventions, protocol and law. Experience further teaches us that increased protection to all upon arrival means increased protection space for ’51 Convention refugees. As refugees and others so often cross borders mixed together, this has become a burning issue, and a priority for organisations working on the ground in countries of departure, transit and arrival. Mixed migration—that is, the movement of people for different motivations, in different circumstances, with different needs and many with particular rights—is a reality that no one can ignore.
However, while mixed migration involves all types of arrivals—land, air and sea—the images of the distress of boat people and their arrivals have disproportionately struck people’s minds. As in the late 70s and 80s, today’s boat people evoke varying responses by government, intergovernmental, humanitarian and civil society organisations, among the finest the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, church and other faith-based networks, NGOs like Save the Children, the Spanish CEAR, Italian CIR, the Greek Praksis, the Arakan Project, Migrant Forum Asia, the Refugee Council of Australia, ECRE and so many others.
Because the responses are often ad hoc, inconsistent and under-resourced, a growing number of NGOs, working with UNHCR, IOM and the International Federation of the Red Cross, Red Crescent have come together to look at existing practice at points of arrival and in the immediate post-arrival period, gaps, and important recommendations for better response to boat people worldwide. This focus is to better identify refugees among the arrivals for the protection that they are entitled to, but not to stop there: because we know that under many more international and regional conventions and protocols, it is not only the refugees on the boats and among these arrivals that are entitled to protection and assistance: so are victims of torture, of trafficking; so are children; so are men, women and children in critical physical distress; so are victims of crime in transit, and victims of trauma. This focus is first, on immediate response, then on differentiation for the particular rights and response that so many of those on the boats—and crossing deserts and other borders for that matter—are entitled to under international and regional conventions.
To read the full statement, please see the pdf below.