Thursday, August 4, 2011

European Governments ignore the social and human rights of refugees

European Governments ignore the social and human rights of refugees

IFSW Europe is the voice of the social work profession across Europe. The federation is deeply concerned about the way that European governments are responding to the problem of refugees especially with those coming from North Africa and the Middle East. We demand that all European governments play an active role in the humane treatment of people who are coming due to war, terror and persecution.

No part of Europe should look away when people are dying on their way to a safe place. It is not acceptable that a large sum of money is spent to build border protection systems. The governments of Europe have been inconsistent in their relations with the dictators in that region.

Countries in North Africa and the Middle East are in a period of substantial upheaval and do not have the capacity to afford the care that is required by such a large number of refugees. In the last few months 400,000 people fled from Libya into neighbouring countries.

Thousands of refugees from Libya are in refugee camps in Tunisia and there is no way out for them. More and more refugees are arriving in Turkey. Refugees try to come by boat to Italy and other Mediterranean countries. Often tragedies happen as people take refuge from persecution.

Europe closes its borders with the support of Frontex. The facilities for refugees provided within the Mediterranean border countries have exceeded their capacity with the result that the camps are overcrowded and forcing people to live in situations which violate human rights. Secondly, many European Governments focus their efforts on keeping refugees out which result in refugees being returned to countries where their human rights will again be abused.

We believe that concerted action by all European governments is required. The first action would be to withdraw cooperation with those Middle East and North African regimes that deny human rights.

Human rights organisations report that people who were sent back have been tortured and imprisoned. During the last few weeks more than 1,000 people have died as a result of demonstrating for democracy. We demand that all governments adopt protection orientated policies in relation to their responsibilities to respond appropriately to the needs of refugees.

Social work is a profession built on human rights. As such, IFSW Europe believes that European Governments must ensure that social workers are involved in work with refugees. Here it is important to recognise that social workers must not be placed in a position where they are expected to breech the professional code of ethics.

European Governments promote a climate of fear in their own countries. This encourages people to focus on defensiveness rather than inclusiveness and solutions. Right now Europe is failing to address the situation of refugees. It is vital that European governments work together to find a way to positively address the current situation with refugees.

Contact: Nicolai Paulsen, President of the IFSW European Region [International Federation of Social Workers – Europe e.V.]
Cell phone: + 45 40 56 19 59

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