Responding to what it described as “somewhat frenzied” political debate in a number of European countries concerning migrants, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today issued new statistics showing a sharp drop in the number of people seeking asylum on the continent. One of the released statistical charts presenting a 10-year overview of the number of applications in 30 industrialized countries contains some “striking” facts, according to a UNHCR spokesman. Rupert Colville told a press briefing in Geneva that the total number of asylum-seekers arriving in the European Union last year was a little over half of what it had been the decade before. At the same time, in many countries the numbers were “not very high – particularly if you compare them with developing countries that have hundreds of thousands, or even – in the case of Iran and Pakistan – millions of refugees.”Seven of the top 10 countries sending out asylum-seekers are conflict-wracked, according to UNHCR. Many of the migrants were “the product of the unresolved and festering situations in Afghanistan – at least until the end of last year – and Iraq,” Mr. Colville noted, adding, “It is also striking that four of the top six asylum-seeker producing countries are European countries.”Taken together, the statistics provided little support for the idea prevalent in several European countries “that they are being deluged by fraudulent asylum-seekers, [and] that – to quote the common mantra – ‘the vast majority are bogus,’” he said. While stressing that UNHCR did not believe that all Iraqis or all Afghans, for example, should receive refugee status, the spokesman said it was “patently, extremely unfair to label people from countries such as these as ‘bogus’ or ‘fraudulent.’” Mr. Colville voiced concern that the current European debate “is getting considerably overheated” and warned that if it produced rushed policy and law-making, this could have “very dangerous results for future refugees, either in terms of gaining access to Europe at all, or in getting a fair hearing and decent treatment once they are here.”
“Any significant attack on the infrastructure or security of Burkina Faso would undermine social cohesion within the country, impair inward investment, and further de-stabilize the region,” the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, said at the end of a five-day visit to the country. “The international community needs to ensure that the material and other resources necessary to protect this small and peaceful State, from both external and internal threats, are made available to it.”Mr. Emmerson urged the European Union, the UN and other international donors, to maintain and increase global support for Burkina Faso, and recommended donors to target their support to measures that contribute to social justice, as well as to the protection of the country’s borders, alleviation of poverty, and promotion of job and wealth creation in the country. Burkina Faso is particularly vulnerable at the moment due to its geographical proximity to the conflict in northern Mali, and the length of its borders with Mali and Niger, Mr. Emmerson said, adding that youth unemployment is also a source of tension in the country, where nearly half the population falls beneath the poverty line.“It is essential that a vulnerable State in such an exposed geographical location, has the tools at its disposal to ensure the security of its borders, maintain the security of inward investment that it is essential to its development, and address the economic, social, political and human rights concerns that can so easily become conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism,” he said.Mr. Emmerson praised the country’s commitment to peaceful negotiation and recalled Burkina Faso’s role as chief peace negotiator for many of the major conflicts in the region.“Burkina Faso plays a critical role in promoting peace and dialogue within the sub-region. It will almost certainly occupy an important mediating position in the forthcoming negotiations concerning the future of Mali, and will significantly contribute to the maintenance of any settlement that is reached.”During his five-day visit, the rights expert met with Government officials as well as representatives of the judiciary and law enforcement, and with prosecutors. Mr. Emmerson also held talks with parliamentarians, non-governmental organizations, and visited detention centres.Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes. Mr. Emmerson is scheduled to present a report to the Council based next year on his visit.