HRW says West's anti-refugee stance curtails human rights

Rights group HRW says Western countries fearing refugees impair human rights as they adopt counterproductive policies in misguided efforts to protect their security

Photo by: AP (Archive )
Photo by: AP (Archive )

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, speaks during the annual press conference of the non governmental organization in Berlin, Germany, Jan. 21, 2014.

A report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday stated that Western governments fearful of terror attacks and the potential threat posed by refugees, are curtailing human rights and adopting misguided policies in the name of security.

“Fear of terrorist attacks and mass refugee flows are driving many Western governments to roll back human rights protections,” HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth wrote in his introductory essay to the organisation’s annual report named “Politics of Fear Threatens Rights.”

“These backward steps threaten the rights of all without any demonstrated effectiveness in protecting ordinary people,” Roth continued.

He also accused Europe and the United States "for blatant Islamophobia and shameless demonizing of refugees," warning this is "the kind of division and animosity that terrorist recruiters love to exploit." 

Roth wrote that an estimated one million refugees, who reached Europe by sea in 2015, would represent only 0.20 percent of the EU population if resettlement occurred.

“Creating a safe and orderly way for refugees to make their way to Europe would reduce lives lost at sea while helping immigration officials to screen out security risks, increasing security for everyone,” he stated.

In an interview with TRT World, Roth said HRW is also concerned about the EU pressuring Turkey to undermine the rights of refugees.

“...If Europe is saying, really Turkey we want you to shut the borders, we want you to push back refugees, we want you to block the boats from leaving, that violates the rights of asylum seekers and Turkey should flatly refuse to take part, they should not be bribed by the 3 billion euros.”

He added that what had to be done was to enable refugees “to find jobs, to educate their kids, to build a real future in Turkey while they wait for conditions to improve in Syria so they can return home.”

Turkey is home to at least 2.2 million Syrian refugees and the main departure point for those headed to Europe.  

Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had said that Turkey, as the most affected country by the refugee crisis, was not begging for money from the EU, but expected the international community to share the burden.

“Turkey has spent close to $10 billion on the refugees," Davutoglu said.

"There are many things to be done, together with the EU, together with the international community. But nobody can expect from Turkey to carry the entire burden alone," he stressed.

In November, the EU promised 3 billion euros ($3.28 billion) in aid to Turkey at an EU-Turkey summit to support plans which would improve the living conditions of refugees in the country and address the problems of the refugee flow.

According to HRW there are more than 60 million people displaced by war or repression.

The refugee crisis emerged after the Syrian civil war, which has claimed the lives of more than 260,000 people, so far, according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Last summer, thousands of mostly Syrian refugees marched towards western European countries using a route through Greece-Macedonia-Serbia-Hungary-Austria from east to west, triggering a huge refugee crisis in the continent.

TRTWorld and agencies