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Fortress Europe won't work. (Caux 2002).

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, condemned the `stigmatization of refugees and asylum seekers as people trying to break the law' in a Caux Lecture at the beginning of July.

Europe's attempts to seal its borders against refugees would be as futile as the US's attempts to ban alcohol 70 years ago, he predicted. Governments spent millions on reinforcing borders, deterrence and detention centres, `while refusing to invest in tackling the problems at source' in the countries of origin and transit.

`Millions of refugees and other displaced people live in the most degrading conditions of abject poverty,' said Lubbers, a former Prime Minister of the Netherlands. The `abominally low levels of assistance provided to the most marginalized and vulnerable people in the world' might amount to a violation of human rights.

`Refugees have the capacity to become valuable citizens, not a burden, not a risk,' Lubbers concluded. `We should all constantly remind ourselves that one day, any of us could be knocking at someone else's door, asking for help.'

The theme recurred throughout the summer, with many refugees attending the different conferences. A series of workshops on `The West's response to asylum seekers', during the Connecting Communities conference (see p4), was attended by refugees and asylum seekers, professionals in the field, grassroots befrienders and activists, and concerned citizens.

Jean-Daniel Gerber, Director of the Swiss Federal Office of Refugees, spoke at Caux in August. He too maintained that Europe's attempts to secure its borders would not work--`it never has and it never will'.

Most migrants went unprotected, because they did not qualify as refugees under international conventions, he said. He called for the creation of a new international organization to respond to their needs, in a world whose inequalities left many with few options other than revolution or migration.

He outlined a six-point programme starting with a change of mentality in host countries, to recognize that migration is a beneficial process.
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Publication:For A Change
Date:Oct 1, 2002
Previous Article:Citadel of silence. (Caux 2002).
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