Holy See's Address on Defense of Refugees

"Protection Requires More Than a Good Legal Framework"

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NEW YORK, NOV. 9, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address of Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, delivered Wednesday before the General Assembly's commission on the "Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Questions Relating to Refugees, Returnees and Displaced Persons and Humanitarian Questions."



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Mr. Chairman,

At the outset, the Holy See is pleased to restate its continued appreciation of the dedicated work of the UNHCR and of Mr. Guterres in protection of the different groups of people who fall within the High Commission's mandate.

Over the years, a legal system adapted to the evolving demands of a changing and complex reality has been developed in order to afford protection to those who need it. The latest examples are the adoption of the Conclusion on Women and Girls at Risk and of the Conclusion on Identification, Prevention and Reduction of Statelessness and Protection of Stateless Persons.

To an increasing extent, the UNHCR is also involved in the protection of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) where, in the cluster approach, it takes leadership responsibility for protection, emergency shelter and camp coordination, and management.

This is another positive development in reaching out to those who are internally displaced, a process which started with the innovative development of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, and was motivated by the growing understanding of the international community of its responsibility to protect those in need. Reality on the ground requires further evolution of this responsibility and its extension to IDPs, without losing sight of the special characteristics of refugees and their protection.

Protection requires more than a good legal framework: Cooperation and political will are also needed to make such a framework function properly. Unfortunately, a certain deterioration of the legal concept of asylum appears to be taking place as some states give preference to national legislation or bilateral agreements over international refugee law.

Moreover, access to asylum has also become more difficult because of the phenomenon of mixed flows; and some countries do not acknowledge or uphold internationally established rights in their domestic legislation, such as freedom of movement, the right to work, and the recognition of qualifications.

Furthermore, programs remain largely underfunded, resulting in a major gap in the assistance to and the management of refugees. Food rations do not keep up with international standards and are often reduced or irregularly supplied, while the approved minimum criteria of assistance in health, education, agriculture, income generation and community services cannot always be met.

Thankfully, some conflicts are coming to an end and this allows people to return to their home country and, when that happens, a strong, unified cooperation between agencies involved in relief assistance and post-conflict recovery is needed so that a sustainable return in safety and dignity can be ensured along with the reconstruction of the local social and economic infrastructure.

Each person should be able to exercise the right to protection, guaranteed or restored, as already found in many international agreements. A lasting solution to the problem of refugees and IDPs will affect not only them but, by extension, will also have an impact upon the whole human family. These norms for the protection of those in need should be applied at national, regional and international levels, as applicable. The rights and dignity of our suffering fellow human beings are at stake and, as such, they deserve no less than our highest consideration and our best efforts for their protection.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[Original text in English; adapted]