UN refugee chief says increased intolerance threatens asylum principles

29 September 2005 –

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres today urged non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to work towards creating more tolerant societies because increased intolerance is putting asylum principles at risk.

As representatives of some 190 NGOs wound up their annual consultations with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at the UN Headquarters in Geneva, Mr. Guterres said: "The increased intolerance in today's world is putting asylum principles at stake. It will be crucial to stem this tide and NGOs, as an operational partner as well as civil societies, can help us advocate for a more tolerant climate."

He added that mixed migration flows in which migrants and asylum-seekers arrive in Europe along with smugglers make access to asylum more difficult for genuine refugees. It was huge problem which could only be addressed with the collaboration of States, NGOs and other members of the international community, he said.

"It is important that we work closely as strategic partners, in a very transparent climate," Mr. Guterres said. "UNHCR simply does not have all the financial or physical means to implement its programmes. We have to coordinate and cooperate closely so NGOs can help us do what we cannot do alone."

More than 300 NGO representatives working with UNHCR around the world took part in the consultations which began on Tuesday. The once-a-year meeting allows NGOs to highlight issues to be incorporated in discussions during next week's meeting of UNHCR's governing body.

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