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TOPIC

XENOPHOBIA AND HUMAN RIGHTS

  Xenophobia is defined by most as a fear of foreigners or something that generally is considered to be foreign or that doesn`t belong to a particular community. In one serious and extreme manifestation of intolerance, xenophobia can be a motivating factor behind violent attacks on individuals and property. Xenophobic and other bias-motivated violence (in many countries referred to as “hate crime”) is a pernicious form of discrimination in which individuals are targeted because of their race, national or ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability or other similar status. Refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, displaced persons, and migrants are particularly vulnerable to such forms of violence as they are often distinguished by their appearance, language, religion and customs, particularly in largely homogenous societies.[1]

Their difference is the reason of serious human rights violations and as such, this topic deserves huge attention of the international community and especially international organizations, such as the United Nations. Within this framework, United Nations Human Rights Council already played a crucial role by making recommendations to the member states on practical steps that each of them should implement in order to reduce xenophobic attacks and discrimination. Still, there is a lot of job to be done given that every social event is related with the other. Bearing that in mind, it is predictable that a number of xenophobic incidents in Europe and around the world will continue to rise if the international community doesn’t provide a solid mechanism for its reduction. This will be a case mostly because of the continuation of crisis in the Middle East and the constant lack of good governance and economic opportunities in third world countries. As the situation there remains the same or is getting more complicated, more migrants and refugees in Europe and other developed countries will spark off new incidents caused by xenophobia. Standing face to face with today’s diversity we should not forget some of xenophobia manifestation in the past. We are all familiar with Jewish Holocaust, or “ethnic cleansing” in Rwanda which resulted in the genocide of thousands of Tutsis, or many crimes against Indians in Australia. We can also consider current animosity against Mexican and Latino immigrants from US Americans based on assumption of dominate white European heritage, described by former president candidate Pat Buchanan in familiar phrase “they are taking our country away from us!” Last year in Johannesburg (South Africa), wave of attacks against foreign nationalities occurred under the Zulu king rule. In Europe we are witnesses of unpleased behavior to Muslims in Sweden even if this country stands out as an open and accepting country.

 Earlier this year, UNHCR expressed its concern that “racism and discrimination have become a major protection challenge in many parts of the world, including the region of North Africa and the Middle East, where escalating violence has particularly affected persons in need of international protection and has generated forced displacement in some of these countries”[2]

 States have the primary obligation to protect individuals – citizens and noncitizens, regardless of their legal status – from discrimination by addressing xenophobic and other forms of bias-motivated violence. Several key international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Outcome Document of the Durban Review Conference, outline specific obligations and commitments of States to protect refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and other persons from discrimination and bias-motivated violent acts. 

The Durban Declaration pointed out that xenophobia against non-nationals, and in particular, migrants, constitutes one of the main sources of contemporary racism. Migrants are often discriminated against in housing, education, health, work or social security. It is a global issue affecting the countries of origin, the countries of transit and the countries of arrival. Refugees, migrants and asylums are generally blamed for issues and they are becoming objects of violence. Many countries such as Pakistan, Thailand, Guinea, Hungary, closing their borders and forcing them to go back, putting their own sovereignty to prevail human rights and needs. Also for example refugees from China, DR Congo, Sudan, Rwanda are highly unlikely to be able to obtain visas and other documents for travel legally to the European Union. According to the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, around 200 million people live outside their country of origin, which will amount to 3.1% of the world population in 2010. Estimates showed that between 1945 and 1990, the number of migrants increased by around 45 million people per year.[3]

In order to reduce the number of xenophobic incidents governments should develop strategies that will include:

·         Strengthening enforcement and prosecution of offenders

·         Acknowledgement and condemnation of acts of bias-motivated violence whenever they   occur

·         Monitoring and reporting bias-motivated violence

·         Reaching out to affected communities

·         Speaking out against intolerance and xenophobic behavior

Every country should implement their legislative obligations as it deems necessary, but it is the duty of the international community and in this case especially the Human Right Council to make recommendations so that the rights of every individual can be protected. Without deliberative answer to intolerant and violent behavior towards foreigners, there will never be prosperity which should be considered as the most important for every country.

* Bearing all this in mind we could ask a few questions: Will xenophobic ideas keep raising in Europe and other parts of the world?
* How do we cure xenophobia? Is the best option to have a separate international legally binging document that will deal with this situation?
* Is patriotism related to xenophobia and how much should we care about extreme right wing movements and their connections to xenophobic behavior?

 


[1] Combating Xenophobic Violence, A Framework for Action; Human Rights First

[2] U.N. Refugee Agency, http://www.unhcr.org/437b5ea94.html.

[3]http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Discrimination/Pages/discr

 

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