Friday, March 04, 2016

On refugees - the moral high ground?

“It is disappointing that countries, given their recent history and proclaimed commitment to human rights, which could be expected to champion the principles reflected in the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol, are now turning their backs on it for sheer expedience and on those fleeing persecution, rape, turmoil and death.”Ambassador Palitha Kohona, a former Chief of the UN Treaty Section.

They seem to be ready to blatantly and without embarrassment sacrifice their own principles, the human rights treaty framework and the moral high ground which they have occupied in other situations, he added. Those fleeing to Europe had little or no role in the breakdown of their own societies largely caused by external interventions, he said.
“One wonders whether latent racism has dropped all pretences, and again raised its ugly head in Europe and sacrificed high principle in the process,” said Kohona, a former Sri Lankan Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq said “Our bottom line is that all refugees need to be treated with respect for their dignity and we want to make sure that their basic rights are upheld.”
Some European countries are hinting at amending the Convention, in order to absolve themselves of the responsibility of welcoming refugees. Kohona pointed out that the 1951 Convention resulted from an international effort to deal with the millions crossing borders after the World War and those escaping religious, political and other forms of persecution in an orderly manner. He said not much was thought while millions of refugees fled Asian or African turmoil into other Asian and African countries. But it has now become controversial given that these non-European refugees are fleeing into Europe. Withdrawal would inevitably raise questions about the high moral values championed by those countries in different circumstances, Kohona pointed out.

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