Leave behind prejudice and fear to change narrative on migration

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Sometimes 20, Sometimes 30 - It’s normal for refugees to live in small flats with up to 30 people, who may all be replaced the next week. For survival, they live wherever job opportunities take them - Photograph: UNHCR

The UN Human Rights Office for South East Asia is calling for a human rights-based approach to refugee movements in Asia that emphasises shared values over differences which fuel fear and prejudice of migrants.

Ahead of World Refugee Day on 20 June, the UN Human Rights Office regional representative, Cynthia Veliko, calls for strong protection of the rights of all refugees and other people on the move.

“International human rights law is clear: all refugees and other migrants are entitled to all human rights, without discrimination of any kind. Yet, they are disproportionately vulnerable to discrimination, marginalisation, exploitation, violence and xenophobia, often with limited access to due process and remedies.

“While the journeys to seek refuge are becoming longer, more fragmented, fluid and dangerous, messages of xenophobia have increasingly permeated the public discourse of political movements and the media in many countries in this region, resulting in a climate of violence and exclusion.

“Public narratives on migration and asylum often reflect the fact that foreigners are easy scapegoats for deep-seated fears about terrorism, crime and unemployment. Such negative attitudes towards people on the move can result in significant barriers to their social inclusion, particularly when they are in irregular situations.

“The UN Human Rights Office for South East Asia believes that in order to change the negative narrative surrounding immigration in the region, it is imperative to bring to the forefront our shared values as human beings.

“Instead of a narrative founded on prejudice and fear, one based on our common principles of human rights, diversity, solidarity and humanity is urgently required to foster empathy and empower refugees, other migrants and the communities into which they arrive.

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“On World Refugee Day, we call for robust protection of the rights of all refugees and other people on the move in the Asia Pacific region.”

The regional office for South-East Asia in Bangkok represents the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights within South East Asia.

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