FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 24, 2016
UN Human Rights Council Moves the Ball Forward
on Refugee Rights in Thailand, Tanzania
OAKLAND, CA – Asylum Access, in coalition with nine local civil society organizations submitted two reports detailing the situation of refugees in Tanzania and Thailand in advance of their Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations in Geneva. The reports highlighted, among other challenges, barriers to accessing work permits and freedom of movement in Tanzania as well as the use of arbitrary detention and the threat of refoulement in Thailand.
Following Thailand’s UPR, the Government promised to improve access to health, education and social welfare for refugees, including the over nine thousand refugees who live outside of camps without legal status. The Thai Government also committed to addressing harsh living conditions in immigration detention centers. The pledges will be evaluated by Human Rights Council as part of Thailand’s next UPR in 2021.
During Tanzania’s review, Canada called on the Government to ensure refugees have access to work and freedom of movement. The recommendation marked the first time that the human rights of refugees were explicitly included as part of Tanzania’s UPR. Asylum Access was the only NGO to submit information to the UPR on the human rights of refugees in Tanzania.
Greater attention to the human rights of refugees comes at a crucial time in history as the global refugee population climbs higher than anytime since World War II and appeals for funding from UNHCR remain unmet.
The UPR is a mechanism by which the UN Human Rights Council examines each of the 193 UN Member States human rights record. Each country is reviewed every 4.5 years and as part of the examination, other UN Member States can pose questions and make recommendations to the State under review. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can inform the discussion by submitting reports to the UN detailing the human rights conditions in a particular country. In future sessions, States are expected to report back on what they have done to implement previously raised recommendations.
The UPR is an effective tool to protect and promote human rights worldwide. A study from 2014 shows that nearly 50 percent of UPR recommendations were either partially or fully implemented within 2.5 years of being raised. Since the UPR process first began in 2008, recommendations concerning refugees and asylum seekers were made over 700 times by roughly 116 different States.
As Jessica Therkelsen, Global Policy Director at Asylum Access, notes:
“The UPR mechanism is crucial for ensuring that states protect the rights of refugees alongside citizens and others in their borders. These recommendations give refugee rights advocates clear goals for engaging governments over the next four years.”
About Asylum Access
Asylum Access is an international human rights nonprofit founded to make refugee rights a reality in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Our innovative model gives refugees the tools to rebuild their lives with dignity through five integrated tools: individualized legal counsel and/or representation, community legal empowerment, policy advocacy, strategic litigation and movement-building. Please visit www.asylumaccess.org for more information.
Global Policy Director, Asylum Access
Executive Director, Asylum Access