12-20-2011By Paul LeGendre
Director, Fighting Discrimination Program
Just last week, an Italian man with links to an extremist group went on a shooting spree in Florence, killing two Senegalese traders and injuring another three before turning the gun on himself. This is the latest in a long line of violent xenophobic attacks targeting refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and other ‘outsiders.’ They have become a common occurrence in many parts of the world.
In marking International Migrant’s day yesterday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concern that irregular migrants are vulnerable to xenophobic violence and hate crimes. He also reaffirmed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights declaration that “all persons” are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
Earlier this month, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres urged states to take a strong stand against xenophobia and other forms of intolerance. At a Ministerial Meeting held earlier this month at the Palais des Nations to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 50th anniversary of the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, High Commissioner Guterres stressed that: “Governments… must have the courage to take a strong stance against intolerance, discrimination, racism and xenophobia.” Combating xenophobia was also among the issues on which States were encouraged to make new refugee protection commitments, or “pledges” – the full range of which will be made public by the UNHCR in early 2012.
On December 6, in advance of the Ministerial meeting addressing these topics, Human Rights First released its report Combating Xenophobia: A Framework for Action that documents xenophobic and other bias-related violence in 15 countries. The report also provides recommendations for states, UN agencies and civil society on steps they can take to address this global problem. Human Rights First previously raised concerns regarding xenophobia refugee protection and helped to organize panel events at the 2010 UNHCR NGO Consultations and the 2009 UNHCR Executive Committee meeting.
As outlined in Human Rights First’s Framework for Action, addressing xenophobic and other forms of bias-related violence is a critical component of protecting the human rights of refugees, migrants and other foreign nationals, as well as promoting social cohesion and protecting vulnerable members of society. States can and should take a number of practical actions to combat xenophobic and other bias-motivated violence. Read more about our recommendations for such action here.