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HRW: 'Politics of fear' threatens rights

Large flows of refugees into Europe have increased fear mongering and Islamophobia [AFP]

Date of publication: 29 January, 2016

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Faced with terrorist attacks and large flows of refugees governments have made 'misguided efforts to protect their security' which has led to the curtailment of rights, said HRW's chief.

The spread of terrorist attacks outside the Middle East and huge flows of refugees have led governments to curtail rights in 'misguided efforts to protect their security', said the executive director of human rights watch.

Writing in the 659 page World Report 2016, Kenneth Roth said that at the same time, fearing peaceful dissent, authoritarian governments have engaged in "the most intense crackdown on independent groups in recent times".

The report is a review of human rights practices in more than 90 countries for the international NGO.

"Fear of terrorist attacks and mass refugee flows are driving many Western governments to roll back human rights protections," Roth said.

"These backward steps threaten the rights of all without any demonstrated effectiveness in protecting ordinary people."

HRW said that there has been growing fearmongering and Islamophobia due to the large number of refugee flows into Europe, largely due to the Syrian conflict.

However, by closing their borders European governments are passing the refugee problem on to countries at the continent's periphery that are less well-equipped to deal with the crisis.

Roth also argued that emphasising the threat posed by refugees had distracted governments away from addressing the problem of homegrown terrorist threats and of socially marginalised internal populations.

The NGO said the US has used the terrorism threat to try and reverse recent "modest restrictions on intelligence agencies' ability to engage in mass surveillance".

Emphasising the threat posed by refugees had distracted governments away from addressing the problem of homegrown terrorist threats.


The UK and France, meanwhile, have sought to expand their monitoring powers.

This will "significantly undermine privacy rights without any demonstrated increase in the ability to curb terrorism," said HRW.

"The tarring of entire immigrant or minority communities, wrong in itself, is also dangerous," Roth said.

"Vilifying whole communities for the actions of a few generates precisely the kind of division and animosity that terrorist recruiters love to exploit."

Roth also argued that leaders should create a safe and orderly way for refugees to make their way into Europe. This would minimise the loss of life and increase security by enabling immigration officials to screen out those seen to pose a security threat.

The current chaotic situation is easy for would-be terrorists to exploit, he argued.

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