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Geneva refugee convention marks 50 years

Every day throughout the world, people are forced to flee their homes Keystone Archive

It is 50 years since the Geneva Convention on Refugees came into force, but with 42 million displaced people around the world, the Swiss Refugee Council sees no cause for celebration.

In a statement to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on July 28, 1951, the Council said it had lost none of its significance over the years and had made it possible for countless numbers of persecuted people to begin a new life in a safe environment.

But it said the Convention had to be fought for anew every day to ensure that it remained an effective instrument for the protection of refugees.

According to Refugee Council statistics, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) currently has 22 million people under its protection. A further 20 million people are displaced, having fled their homes.

The Council praised the example of the Swiss people down the years in accepting refugees and showing solidarity with displaced people from Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Tibet, Chile and more recently Bosnia and Kosovo.

Looking to the future, the Council stressed the need for refugees to be given adequate legal protection. It also called on the Swiss government to make it easier for refugees in Switzerland to obtain Swiss citizenship after five years in the country.

The Federal Refugee Office is currently considering new proposals, which would allow more asylum seekers to qualify for refugee status. The changes are timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Convention on Refugees and are aimed at bringing Switzerland’s policy into line with that of other European countries.

The Geneva Convention on Refugees came in response to Nazi persecution and the refugee problems of the Second World War. Thousands of Jews and members of other persecuted groups were killed by the Nazis after being denied asylum by countries including Switzerland.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR