UN chief criticises European restrictions on refugees
United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, yesterday told Austria’s lower house of parliament that increasing restrictions on migrants will “negatively impact” Europe’s commitments to international law.
Ban, the first ever foreign dignitary to address a session of Austria’s parliament, did not single out that country in his speech to lawmakers in Vienna, but said he was alarmed about “growing xenophobia,” as Europe faces its worst migrant crisis in decades.
“But I am concerned that European countries are now adopting increasingly restrictive immigration and refugee policies. Such policies and measures negatively affect the obligations of member-states on the international humanitarian law and European law. I welcome the open discussions in Europe including in Austria on integration; but I am alarmed again about growing xenophobia here and beyond.”
Ban told the legislators that, under international and European laws, they have a moral and legal principal obligation to help those fleeing war, human rights abuses, and persecution.
“When the arrival process is well managed, accepting refugees is a win for everyone. These are brave, resilient and forward-looking people. They bring needed skills and energy to their new societies. I understand the difficulties and challenges. I fully appreciate and sympathise with the enormity of the challenges. I trust that Austria will continue to contribute towards the European Union’s efforts to forge a truly cooperative approach towards addressing these issues.”
Ban’s comments came on the same day legislators in Austria’s upper house are scheduled to vote on a measure that would allow authorities to stop accepting asylum requests at the border if they decide it is necessary to protect “internal security.”
Asylum-seekers would instead be turned back.
If passed, the measure would also mandate “temporary asylum” for migrants who have applied for such status since November 15. They would be compelled to leave Austria after three years if Vienna rules that their home countries have become safe.
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