Sunday, June 21, 2009

UNITED PRESS RELEASE: 20 June Refugee Day - 13.250 Deaths



'The amounts needed to rescue people are less than what is needed to rescue banks'.
Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner

'The best town for living is one in which a foreigner feels at home'.
Italo Calvino, Italian writer born in Cuba

- At least 13.250 persons have died in their desperate attempt to find a safe shelter in Europe since 1993

- Their names and their stories have been compiled by the UNITED secretariat under the so-called 'List of Deaths'

- The experts say it is impossible to know the real number and it is likely to be three times higher

- Hundreds of organisations from Turkey to Finland speak out against this intolerable human cost of building 'Fortress Europe' to celebrate the International Refugee Day

- On the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Convention in 2001, the United Nations declared June 20th the International Refugee Day.

Adam Osman Mohammed was 38 years old when he was shot in Darfur after accepting voluntary repatriation when his asylum claim was refused in Great Britain; he died in his home in front of his wife and his four-year-old son. Chulun Liua, a 51-year-old Chinese woman, was left in coma after jumping out of a window to avoid a police raid in Paris. Afrim Magastena, a 24-year-old Albanian man from Kosovo, hanged himself in a detention centre in Prenzlau, Germany, in fear of deportation.

13.250 sad stories like these ones are documented in the 'List of Deaths' whereby the UNITED for Intercultural Action secretariat has been monitoring the deadly results of 'Fortress Europe' since 1993. The current 'List of Deaths' already includes
13.250 deaths of asylum seekers and migrants who have lost their lives in an attempt to find a safe shelter in Europe.

Although the experts say it is impossible to know the real number, which is likely to be three times higher, the UNITED 'List of Deaths' has been made with a rigorous method of comparing sources, from news to NGOs' media releases.

Where, when and under which circumstances the refugees died is data compiled exclusively from officially documented deaths.

With these facts UNITED spreads a powerful lobby and awareness-raising tool possible to use in campaign actions all over Europe.

20th of June: International Refugee Day
On the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Convention in 2001, the United Nations declared the 20th of June the International Refugee Day.

Every year on the 20th of June,
UNITED for Intercultural Action -the largest pan European network against racism, fascism, nationalism and in support of refugees and migrants- celebrates the International Refugee Day.

Around this day,
hundreds of organisations from Turkey to Finland speak out against this intolerable human cost of building 'Fortress Europe' to celebrate the International Refugee Day. Under the common slogan 'Fortress Europe. Weakness Humanity' hundreds of activities and events take place all over the continent in order to highlight this issue and promote refugees' rights.

The main point of these acts is raising awareness about the human side of the refugee issue and preserving their dignity.

Building a safe Fortress
Hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers all over Europe are fleeing from war, persecution or poverty. In the last years the number of migrants seeking refuge has grown considerably, due to several ongoing wars, the increasing intolerance toward minorities in many countries and the global economical crisis.

This week the
UN High Commissioner, Antonio Guterres, has launched the UNHCR's annual '2008 Global Trends' report which shows the number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution worldwide stood at 42 million at the end of last year.

Nevertheless, while the need for protection is increasing, the open attitude of those countries where migrants seek refuge is decreasing.

In fact the European public debate tendency links crime rates with migration. The economical situation creates an atmosphere, which drives people to look for scapegoats.

In Greece, for example, the Government has recently promised the deportation of 100 migrants and asylum seekers per day.

UNITED is convinced that this attitude cannot be accepted. This kind of Government decisions is dangerous because it legitimizes racist and discriminatory attitudes. Many examples can prove the inhuman consequences of these policies, such as the migrants' detention centres, prisons for undocumented people without any legal supervision. Also, the use of deportation as a tool to control 'illegal' migration is often beyond the limits of Europe's democratic and humanitarian legacy. The increasing externalization of Europe's borders as a practice of territorial protection is also beyond human and political legitimization. Indeed the new European borders are now outside its territory. Libya, Morocco and Mauritania, countries that haven't signed some of the most basic international agreements on human rights, have built new detention centres, which examine migrant-candidates. By externalizing deportation Europe cannot guarantee that the rights contemplated by the Geneva Convention are respected. Therefore, Europe violates the most important international agreement on human rights.

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