Refugee crisis: Council of Europe reminds states of respect for human rights of all

Secretary General Strasbourg 9 September 2015
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Refugee crisis: Council of Europe reminds states of respect for human rights of all

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has issued guidance to the Council of Europe’s  47 member States on the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers, including with regard to their reception and temporary living conditions, to ensure respect for their human rights.

“The ongoing migrant crisis is creating unprecedented challenges for European states,” he wrote in a letter to member States. “A minority of countries is being asked to absorb the majority of incomers and political solidarity is being severely tested.”

The Secretary General paid tribute to the many state officials, border teams, police officers and immigration staff, as well as thousands of volunteers working in a “professional and respectful manner”. He strongly urged all European leaders to help their neighbours and allies struggling to satisfy the immediate needs of new arrivals.

“Any person arriving in the territory of the 47 member States of the Council of Europe is entitled to the same fundamental rights as everyone else,” Jagland said, stressing that even in times of large-scale arrivals, there can be no derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights, prohibiting inhuman and degrading treatment.

“Many of the incomers are asylum seekers whose requests to stay in Europe will be accepted,” he added “It is self-defeating to mistreat or demean any future member of our societies.”

Jagland recalled the fact that 41 member states of the Council of Europe’s Development Bank can request loans to facilitate necessary improvements to their infrastructure.  “The Bank is creating a new grant based facility, in addition to its existing instruments, to help finance reception and transit centres,” he said.

The Secretary General has commissioned an urgent analysis of the legal shortcomings which presently inhibit the prosecution of people-smugglers and ways to improve judicial co-operation between Europe and the South Mediterranean. He also urged all Council of Europe member states to support the UNHCR’s Syria Regional Response Plan.