ECRE BGM statement on the Iraq crisis: The need for access to protection

News and Press Release
Originally published
The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) meeting in Bucharest for its Biannual General Meeting on 20 to 22 March 2003, considered the serious humanitarian consequences of the armed conflict in Iraq. UNHCR estimates that 600,000 people might flee Iraq to seek international protection while hundreds of thousands of people could become internally displaced.
ECRE stresses that humanitarian action in the region must safeguard the fundamental right of Iraqi nationals "to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution" and protection from refoulement. As a matter of priority, we call upon European governments to be ready to take action that would give effect to the principle of responsibility sharing in the event of mass population movements in Iraq or in the wider region of the Middle East. Persons fleeing Iraq should be provided with access to an effective protection regime that complies with international human rights standards and does not erode existing forms of protection such as under the 1951 Geneva Convention.

European governments should lend their full support to countries neighbouring Iraq to strengthen their protection capacity, enable them to keep their borders open and provide adequate assistance to those fleeing. Europe should also be prepared to participate in humanitarian evacuation if necessary.

Processing of claims by Iraqi applicants should continue. European governments should not enforce return to Iraq including the Kurdish Autonomous Region or to transit neighbouring countries. No returns should take place until safety on the ground can be guaranteed. Persons not in need of protection who cannot be returned to Iraq should be granted with the socio-economic rights necessary to live in dignity.

ECRE calls upon European governments to provide political leadership and ensure that Iraqi refugee and other refugee communities in Europe are protected from negative stereotyping, community intolerance and xenophobia resulting from the conflict in the Middle East.

NGOs offer their constructive co-operation to governments and UNHCR in the planning, development, implementation and monitoring of protection activities targeting refugees and other populations displaced by the war.

The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) is a network of 74 refugee assisting non-governmental organisations in 31 European countries.

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