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Amnesty International has criticized the UN’s “ineffective” response to the refugee crisis in Syria and elsewhere and called for developed countries to take more responsibility.
By M. Bilal Kenasari
Anadolu Agency

ANKARA — Human rights campaign group Amnesty International accused the United Nations on Friday of adding to the global refugee crisis through “apathy, political alliances and point-scoring.”

On World Refugee Day, Amnesty called on the UN’s Security Council to “act more decisively to protect civilians and prevent millions more people being driven away from their homes.”

Refugees and Migrants Programme Director Sherif Elsayed-Ali said: “Apathy, political alliances and point-scoring must cease trumping human rights concerns when it comes to decision-making at the Security Council.”

A further statement from Amnesty added: “The Security Council’s, and in some cases the UN Secretariat’s, ineffective or delayed responses to ongoing conflicts in Syria, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Iraq have allowed violence to spiral and countless communities to be devastated before meaningful action, if any, is taken.”

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ latest figures, which were released today, report 51.2 million refugees worldwide.

Syria demonstrates the plight of refugees, with around three million Syrians having crossed into neighboring countries since the conflict began three years ago.

On Thursday Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay, who has previously attacked the level of humanitarian aid from developed nations, said 1,050,000 refugees were in Turkey.

Dr. Selman Ogut, professor of international law at Marmara University, Istanbul, told Anadolu Agency that the UN’s primary goal is to preserve peace and security.

He said: “This main goal is the basic incentive which legitimizes the peremptory role of the Security Council. Preserving international peace and security is not just a simple intention for international society.”

The decision for the UN to intervene militarily in Korea in 1950 was a decision by the UN General Assembly, not the Security Council, where Russia had vetoed the plan, said Ogut, demonstrating that peace and security is viewed as an obligation.

In 2011 the UN International Law Commission adopted an article to hold international body’s responsible for breaking their obligations – whether through action or omission. Ogut says that under this article, the UN should be internationally responsible for its failure to act.

Amnesty accused “rich countries” of “shirking their responsibility to protect refugees to such a ludicrous extent”.

The statement added: “Despite their relative economic disadvantage, developing countries are bearing the brunt of the crisis, with Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Pakistan the top five refugee hosting countries.  In 2013, three of those countries – Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey – registered receiving a total of 1,524,979 refugees from Syria alone.

“By contrast, the USA records resettling just 36 Syrian refugees in 2013 – although it resettles thousands more from other countries. The 28 countries of the EU have pledged to resettle 30,498 Syrians, although the vast majority – 25,500 – will be resettled in Germany.”

Amnesty said 435,000 people sought asylum in the EU last year but just 136,000 were granted it.

Last week German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere claimed his country wanted to meet its humanitarian responsibility but accepted only 10,000 Syrian refugees. Günter Burkhardt, chairman of relief organization Pro Asyl, said the figure was not enough.

Aybuke Ekici, a lawyer for Istanbul-based International Refugee Rights, attributed wealthy EU nations’ reluctance to accept refugees to racism.

“The rise of the extreme right wing in EU parliamentary elections appeared as a result of racist voices and hatred towards foreigners,” she claimed. She used far-right French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen’s comments – earlier this year he said ebola virus could solve Europe’s “immigration problem” – to demonstrate attitudes in Western countries.

Ekici added: “Ten countries in Europe admitted only about 50,000 Syrians, and they selected these from among qualified individuals. Actually this is called brain drain.”

Turning to China and Russia, Amnesty stated: “Those countries that have blocked any meaningful action on Syria are contributing the least to the global refugee crisis. Russia and China resettled zero refugees in 2013.

“Their donations to the UN appeal for Syria, which secured the largest funds in the organization’s history, are equally pitiful. Russia contributed 0.3 percent of those funds in 2013 and 0.1 percent in 2014, while China contributed nothing.”

Elsayed-Ali commented: “The globe’s self-styled leaders are lagging far-behind the developing world when it comes to bearing the burden of the global refugee crisis.”

Urging developed countries to shoulder their share of the burden, Amnesty concluded: “It’s time for governments in developed countries to stop thinking in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Refugees and asylum seekers have often endured terrible ordeals – they deserve to be protected and treated with humanity and dignity.”

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