Rohingya migrants on a boat off the southern Thai island of Koh Lipe in the Andaman Sea on May 14, 2015
Rohingya migrants on a boat off the southern Thai island of Koh Lipe in the Andaman Sea on May 14, 2015 © Christophe Archambault - AFP
Rohingya migrants on a boat off the southern Thai island of Koh Lipe in the Andaman Sea on May 14, 2015
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AFP
Last updated: January 1, 1970

Amnesty condemns 'shameful' world response to refugee crisis

Rights group Amnesty International on Monday slammed world leaders for "condemning millions of refugees to an unbearable existence" and demanded they work closely to resolve the "worst crisis" since World War II.

"From the Andaman to the Mediterranean people are losing their lives as they desperately seek safe haven," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty's secretary general, as the group published a report ahead of World Refugee Day on June 20.

"The current refugee crisis will not be solved unless the international community recognises that it is a global problem that requires states to significantly step up international cooperation," he added.

In its report, the London-based group urged the international community to establish a fund and to collectively commit to resettling a million refugees over the next four years.

"The refugee crisis is one of the defining challenges of the 21st century, but the response of the international community has been a shameful failure," said Shetty.

"We need a radical overhaul of policy and practice to create a coherent and comprehensive global strategy."

At a press conference Monday in Beirut, Shetty called on countries in Europe to stop turning back refugees arriving by boat from the Middle East and North Africa.

"This is not a favour, it is enshrined in international law," he said.

"The world cannot wait any longer."

- 'Indefensible' policies -

The situation is particularly "desperate" for four million Syrian refugees, 95 percent of whom live in five countries neighbouring Syria (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt).

Amnesty warned that these countries were being overwhelmed by "such huge burdens".

"No country should be left to deal with a massive humanitarian emergency with so little help from others, just because it happens to share a border with a country in conflict," said Shetty.

Amnesty said Lebanon in particular had received only 18 percent of the funding it needs to support refugees and strained host communities.

"Lebanon must be commended for granting sanctuary to over one million refugees from Syria," said Amnesty's refugee researcher, Khairunissa Dhala, in Beirut.

She said the international community had "utterly failed" to meet the needs of Lebanon's refugee communities.

As a result, the government has been forced to put in place "indefensible" policies, including border restrictions and strict visa requirements for Syrians, Dhala said.

On the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean, Amnesty welcomed measures taken by European Union members to strengthen the Triton border security operation, but called for further action, notably by creating more legal avenues for resettling refugees.

Triton was launched in November 2014 to help Italy control its sea borders and assist migrants.

After a series of devastating wrecks, the European Commission decided in April to triple its budget.

Amnesty said that at least 1,865 people had already been killed in migrant boat journeys from North Africa to Europe in 2015, compared to 425 people in the same period last year.

Many European countries remain wary of welcoming refugees, but Amnesty said at least 300,000 refugees should be resettled per year, for the next four years, to alleviate the crisis.

This long-term approach has been prompted by worsening conflicts around the world that have no foreseeable end in sight, like Syria's four-year war, Dhala said.

"The international community is dealing with the global crisis in quite a piecemeal way, with stopgap measures here and there," she told AFP.

"But we are hoping for a more coordinated response."

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