Cooperation and Political Will in Support of Refugees

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York, yesterday participated in the third committee of the 61st UN General Assembly, which was meeting to consider the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The prelate began his English-language talk by expressing the Holy See's appreciation for "the dedicated work" of the UNHCR. "Over the years," he continued, "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."

Archbishop Migliore went on to recall how the UNHCR "is also involved in the protection of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), where it takes leadership responsibility for protection, emergency shelter and camp coordination, and management." Such protection, he continued, "requires more than a good legal framework: cooperation and political will are also needed to make such a framework function properly.

"Unfortunately," he added, "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."

Lack of funds for food, healthcare and education programs is another of the serious problems faced by the UNHCR, said the archbishop. However, he also identified some positive aspects, such as the end of certain conflicts enabling some refugees to return home. "When that happens," he said, "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."

"A lasting solution to the problem of refugees and IDPs," he concluded, "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."

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