UN urges alternatives to detention for asylum seekers

originally by: United Nations News  
published: 21 September 2012

Seeking asylum is not a criminal act and those who seek it should not be detained, the United Nations refugee agency declared today, while also calling on all states to seek out alternatives to detention when dealing with migrants and refugees.

Addressing a media briefing in Geneva, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Alice Edwards, presented the agency’s new guidelines on the detention of asylum-seekers, urging the world’s governments to make better use of alternatives to detention for those irregular migrants seeking refuge within their borders.

“The new guidelines make clear that seeking asylum is not a criminal act, and that indefinite and mandatory forms of detention are prohibited under international law,” Ms. Edwards said.

“We are disappointed that many countries continue to hold asylum-seekers in detention, sometimes for long periods and in poor conditions, including in some cases in prisons together with common criminals,” she added.

According to a UNHCR report released in March, global asylum claims have been on the rise, with 2011 experiencing an estimated 441,300 recorded claims compared to 368,000 the previous year.

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