Rights of refugees remain "mere words," Vatican official complains

On October 4, during the 55th Session of the Executive Committee of the Program of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations said that  “refugees rights that are recognized "in international instruments too often remain mere words.”

“In many countries,” he said, “refugees are not allowed to work, a basic right, and thus earn a livelihood," many are "dependent on food rations," and for many others "their movements are usually limited to the immediate surroundings of camps, often located in remote regions.”

He noted that “the institutional  capacity of the international community to realize the rights of refugees seems insufficient. ... Guaranteeing refugees their rights will assist them in  becoming 'agents of development', even in their host country."

The Archbishop spoke on the question of voluntary repatriation, saying that "what makes all the difference between successful and unsuccessful voluntary repatriation is how people are returned home: (are they returning) in and to conditions of safety and dignity; what kind of guaranteed benefits they receive and which follow-up activities are developed. ... Provisions also need to be in place for settling property questions and land rights," he pointed out.

He declared that "international human rights and humanitarian law oblige governments to provide for the security and well-being of all those under their jurisdiction. In particular, each citizen has a right to protection by his or her country.”

“If however,” he said, “a State fails to or cannot take this responsibility and the human rights of a population continue to be trampled upon, then the international community can and should assert its concern, step in and take on this obligation."

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