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Vatican official says refugee rights "remain mere words"

Holy See permanent observer at the United Nations, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, this week told the UN High Commission for Refugees executive committee in Geneva that refugee rights recognised by international bodies such as the UN "too often remain mere words".

"In many countries," he said, "refugees are not allowed to work, a basic right, and thus earn a livelihood," many are "dependent on food rations," and for many others "their movements are usually limited to the immediate surroundings of camps, often located in remote regions."

Catholic News Agency reports that he observed that "the institutional capacity of the international community to realise the rights of refugees seems insufficient. ... Guaranteeing refugees their rights will assist them in becoming 'agents of development', even in their host country."

Archbishop Tomasi spoke on the question of voluntary repatriation, saying that "what makes all the difference between successful and unsuccessful voluntary repatriation is how people are returned home: (are they returning) in and to conditions of safety and dignity; what kind of guaranteed benefits they receive and which follow-up activities are developed. ... Provisions also need to be in place for settling property questions and land rights."

He declared that "international human rights and humanitarian law oblige governments to provide for the security and well-being of all those under their jurisdiction. In particular, each citizen has a right to protection by his or her country."

"If however," he said, "a State fails to or cannot take this responsibility and the human rights of a population continue to be trampled upon, then the international community can and should assert its concern, step in and take on this obligation."

Rights of refugees remain "mere words," Vatican official complains (Catholic News Agency 6/10/04)

The rights of refugees and the international community (Vatican Information Service 6/10/04)
Migration conference surveys injustices, jobs, theology (National Catholic Reporter 8/10/04)
Holy See Permanent Observer Mission to the Holy See
United Nations High Commission for Refugees | Executive Committee Meeting

7 Oct 2004