Leaders from around the world will meet in New York on Monday to discuss what to do about the world’s over 21.3 million refugees — more than any time since World War II. The next day, U.S. President Barack Obama will host a “Leader’s Summit,” in hopes of raising money for refugee initiatives.
And two prominent human rights groups have said the planned outcome document for this UN summit on refugees falls short of what is needed to deal with the massive crisis. In separate statements, Human Rights Watch called the draft of the final document “a missed opportunity,” and Amnesty International accused member states of stripping away any proposals of substance.
Amnesty said the outcome document had been rendered toothless after member states removed a clause asking governments to resettle 10 percent of the world’s refugees each year, thus making sure there was no obligation to take in a specific number of people.
“Millions of lives hang in the balance,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “This is not just about more money or greater resettlement numbers, but also about shoring up the legal principles for protecting refugees, which are under threat as never before.”
Human Rights Watch said it was particularly concerned about the risk to the bedrock foundation of refugee protection: not forcibly returning refugees to places where they would face persecution. The group said, so far this year, it has documented cases of refugees pushed back at borders in Jordan and Turkey and the harassing and de-registering of Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan. Kenya has also declared that it will close the world’s largest refugee in camp pushing Somalis to return home.