On behalf of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and in my capacity as Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Displaced Persons and Migrants in Africa, it is a real pleasure and a pleasant duty for me, on this occasion of the World Refugee Day, to wish refugees in Africa and worldwide a wonderful June 20 celebration.
In the past months, several countries in the north of Africa have been the scene of popular uprisings and social crises that led to the massive displacement of populations, with serious consequences on their living conditions.
This year, the theme chosen by UNHCR is “Refugees have no choice. You do”. Through this theme, we are called upon to put ourselves in the position of refugees in order to better understand their dilemma: stay behind and face a conflict of which the outcome is unknown, or flee to an unknown territory in search of a better life. We are also reminded that there are many things we can do to protect and assist refugees.
On this occasion, UNHCR has launched a global campaign under the theme “Dilemmas” which is aimed at attracting the public’s sympathy and understanding towards refugees.
I would like to call on the authorities of Africa to consider the dreadful dilemma faced by war victims and people who are being persecuted and are forced to leave everything behind them to go and spend several years, even a whole lifetime, in exile in another country where the future is not very certain.
Given that our continent is traditionally known for its legendary hospitality, I wish to call on all African countries to continue their ongoing efforts towards fulfilling their responsibilities under the international and regional commitments they have made in the area of asylum. I also call on African leaders to redouble their efforts towards ensuring the wellbeing of people who are victims of forced displacement on our continent.
I further urge countries that have not yet done so to draw up domestic laws on asylum and refugee protection. It is urgent that they establish clear procedures for seeking asylum in order to enable every asylum seeker easy access to asylum procedures and, where necessary, to redress mechanisms in the event of a refusal of an asylum request.
African States also have to be proactive by being more committed in addressing the causes of forced displacements, particularly by preventing the emergence of new conflicts on our continent.
I am confident that through our collective determination, the will of our governments, the support of the international community and the assistance of our partners we will definitely achieve greater results in providing protection and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers.
I hereby extend to all refugees the full support of the African Commission and call on all stakeholders involved in refugee protection to continue to do their utmost to ensure a better life for refugees and asylum seekers on the African continent.
As such, I wish all refugees, irrespective of their country of origin, much hope and courage so that they may overcome their difficult situation.
Banjul, 20 June 2012