The U.N. high commissioner for human rights has condemned the failure of the international community to act to protect the hundreds of thousands of Syrians and refugees from other countries seeking asylum from war and persecution in Europe.
In opening remarks at the U.N. Human Rights Council’s three-week session in Geneva, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein lambasted the apparent hypocrisy of a world that professes to uphold and protect the human rights of the most vulnerable by invoking the tragic image of Aylan Al Kurdi, the little boy whose lifeless body was swept ashore in Turkey, shining a light on the plight of thousands to escape violence in Syria for a safe haven in Europe.
“It made us choke. Shamed and disgraced, the world wept before the body of this little boy. These speeches, these sessions, these protests by so many of us here for a world more humane and more dignifying of the rights of all humans, all humans - what good are they, when this happens?” Hussein asked.
He commended Jordan and Lebanon in the Middle East, and Turkey, Germany and Sweden in Europe for hosting refugees and migrants needing protection. He thanked the millions of ordinary people who opened their homes. He denounced, what he called, the mean-spiritedness of some decision-makers for whipping up xenophobic hatred among their populations.
Hussein also welcomed a European Union proposal to relocate 120,000 refugees in member states and urged Europe to build on this surge of human feeling.
“We need expanded channels of regular migration and resettlement - two measures which would prevent deaths and cut smuggling. Detention, particularly of children, and all forms of ill-treatment should cease, at borders and elsewhere,” Hussein said.
The high commissioner noted that all regions of the world are guilty of atrocities and gross human rights violations. He said too many countries - in Africa, in Asia, in the Middle East, in the Americas - are getting away with crimes against their people because no one is being held accountable.
In regard to sub-Saharan Africa, Hussein expressed particular concern about conditions in seven countries – the Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Mali, Eritrea, and Burundi. While the circumstances differed, he noted that violent and unconscionable actions in all these countries have resulted in countless thousands of deaths and injuries, and millions of people being internally displaced or forced to leave their countries as refugees.