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UN Refugee Agency Unveils New Guidelines On Detention Of Asylum-Seekers
241 days ago
(RTTNews) - The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) unveiled its new guidelines on detention of asylum-seekers on Monday, stressing that seeking asylum cannot be considered as a criminal act.
While presenting the agency's new guidelines on the detention of asylum-seekers at a news conference in Geneva, UNHCR spokesperson Alice Edwards appealed to all governments to make better use of alternatives to detention for those irregular migrants seeking refuge within their borders.
"The new guidelines make clear that seeking asylum is not a criminal act, and that indefinite and mandatory forms of detention are prohibited under international law. We are disappointed that many countries continue to hold asylum-seekers in detention, sometimes for long periods and in poor conditions, including in some cases in prisons together with common criminals," Edwards said.
A UNHCR report released in March indicated that global asylum claims have been on the rise in recent years, noting that an estimated 441,300 recorded claims were made in 2011 when compared to 368,000 in the previous year.
Notably, the largest increase was in southern Europe, which saw asylum claims jumping by about 87% to 66,800. Most of these claims were from people who arrived by boat in Italy and Malta. Nevertheless, Turkey also witnessed a sharp increase in the arrival of migrants in the same period.
During Monday's news briefing, Edwards expressed concerns that detention was becoming a more frequent occurrence with the growing number of asylum seekers. She noted that UNHCR research indicated that irregular migration is not deterred even by stringent detention practices and that more than 90% of asylum-seekers comply with their conditions of release when freed from detention.
"Such solutions are important features of immigration and asylum regimes. Alternatives to detention are also more cost-effective than detention," she stressed.
Edwards also urged governments to pay special attention to vulnerable asylum-seekers, such as victims of torture and trauma, older persons or persons with disabilities, and children.
"Detention should be a measure of last resort, prescribed by national laws and implemented only when necessary and proportionate to a legitimate purpose in conformity with international standards," she added.
The new guidelines issued by the UNHCR on Monday supersede the ones last issued by the UN agency in 1999.
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