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UN asks countries not to turn away refugees

June 19, 2012 16:15 IST

With the unrest in Africa and West Asia triggering a refugee deluge, the United Nations on Tuesday urged countries to welcome millions of such asylum seekers fleeing threats to their lives and not turn away from them citing budget constraints.

"Despite budget constraints everywhere, we must not turn away from those in need. Refugees leave because they have no choice. We must choose to help," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement on the eve of World Refugee day.

Admitting that the rate of displacement was outpacing solutions to the problem, he called for "mobilisation of political will and leadership" to end conflicts that trigger refugee flow.

"Where security is restored, we must address the underlying causes of conflict, allowing sustainable refugee return through access to livelihoods, services and the rule of law," Moon said.

In its '2011 Global Trends' report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said the past year saw more than 4.3 million people being displaced worldwide and of them over 800,000 had to leave their countries in order tosave their lives.

"Four out of five refugees are in developing countries, and have benefited from the remarkable generosity of host countries that themselves face serious deprivations like Pakistan and Iran, which host the largest number of refugees, with over two and half million between them," Moon said.

Despite the lack of a refugee specific law, India hosts more than 200,000 Tibetans and Sri Lankan refugees as well as 17,380 other nationals registered under UNHCR's mandate. The country has also 3,710 asylum seekers, majority of whom are from Myanmar (2,728). Activists claimed over two lakh refugees in India are subjected to discrimination and arbitrary detention as a result of lack of a comprehensive legal framework to govern asylum seekers in the country.

Ravi Nair from the South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre said if India wants to be fair to its refugees, then it can't do with a law that goes back to the 1940s.

"The existing law creates room for bias and executive caprice without due judicial process," claimed Nair.

The UNHCR also feels that India needs a comprehensive legislation to govern refugees but says that India freely welcomes refugees, and that despite not signing the convention on refugee protection, it followed most of the principles within the document.

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