Irish Examiner view: Wealthy states must provide sanctuary for people in peril

Seventy years after the signing of the Refugee Convention, millions of people are still fleeing conflict zones, many in overcrowded makeshift boats and dinghies
Irish Examiner view: Wealthy states must provide sanctuary for people in peril

Rescued migrants wait in the port of Ben Gardane, south Tunisia, earlier this month. Attempted crossings in the area by migrant smugglers' boats have risen sharply in recent weeks amid the summer weather, leading to multiple shipwrecks. Picture: Hamadi Sehli/AP

A former secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, who had to flee his home as a child during the Korean War, has urged wealthy states to rethink their “punitive approach” when it comes to offering refugee protection.

Seventy years after the signing of the Refugee Convention designed to protect those seeking sanctuary from war and persecution, millions of people are still fleeing conflict zones, many in overcrowded makeshift boats and dinghies.

At least 44,230 people have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean by land and sea so far this year, according to data from the UNHCR. 

More than 9,000 people have crossed the English Channel so far this year on board small boats, despite the perilous journey claiming lives. 

At least 57 migrants were reported drowned on Monday when their boat sank off the coast of Libya.

The convention is a crucial component of international human rights law and remains as relevant now as it was when it was first was signed on July 28, 1951.

It sets out the standards of treatment for those seeking refuge from war and persecution, stating that no person should be returned to a country if they face a serious threat to their life or freedom. 

Yet, it is being widely ignored or discounted.

The shame of it is that, as Ban puts it in a Time magazine article: “The global North’s regressive asylum policies stand in stark contrast to the generosity of developing nations.”

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