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Guterres calls for fair asylum procedures, emphasizes protection as “essence” of UNHCR

August 10, 2005

In his first press conference since taking office in June, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres emphasized fair refugee status determination procedures as a tool to control migration and protect security without endangering refugees.

In a separate interview with the website Migration Information Source, Guterres said: “States are concerned with fighting terrorism and ensuring security. That can and should be entirely compatible with fair procedures for asylum.”

Guterres also said at his press conference that UNHCR’s work should be oriented toward protection, both in the developed and developing world. “Protection is the essence of our work,” he said, noting that this encompassed ensuring refugees enjoy a wide range of human rights.

Scholars and refugee rights advocates have often criticized UNHCR for focusing too much on aid delivery, with protection of refugees’ human rights taking a back seat.

In his Migration Information Source interview Guterres indicated that UNHCR’s material assistance programs should serve its protection objectives: “We need to see providing material assistance as an instrument, not a value in itself. From UNHCR’s perspective, that is the kind of assistance we are supposed to deliver.”

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