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Defending the right not to be returned to persecution or worse

JRS defends the basic human right of refugees, uprooted or stateless people not to be returned involuntarily to a country where they could face persecution. Longer term, the organisation helps refugees find appropriate and durable solutions, which may involve voluntary repatriation, integration in countries of asylum, or resettlement in third countries.

JRS advocates on behalf of those refugees and forced migrants whose precarious legal status offers only conditional or temporary protection, and who face the threat of deportation. We call on governments to protect all those risking forced return until a fair determination of their status is concluded.

We oppose the refoulement of those with refugee status and others clearly in need of international protection, and we document and decry those cases that occur, such as that of the Uighurs forcibly sent back to China from Cambodia in December 2009. We promote just asylum laws, access to fair processing of asylum claims, and the implementation of protective regimes such as that provided by the European Convention against Torture.

JRS also works to prevent and address the risks associated with statelessness through advocacy aimed at different levels of government, the UN and refugee communities. Such advocacy includes the identification and elimination of obstacles to the issuing of documentation such as birth certificates.

  • In practice
In practice – JRS responses

In Papua New Guinea, for example, many refugee children do not have birth certificates, leading to problems with proof of identity and the risk of statelessness. Dominican-born children of Haitian descent face the same problem, with the result that they are denied access to schools and other basic services.

JRS Germany supports other NGOs who take part in the monitoring of forced return operations in the main airports in Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Hamburg, following the death of several forcibly returned persons during such operations. Independent observers act as contact persons for families, and provide regular reports to a committee of state officials and NGOs that address problems arising as a result of forced returns.

JRS offers legal aid to asylum seekers in many countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa. We also advocate for improved access to refugee status determination and swifter procedures. Both are essential to improve refugee protection and to allow refugees to find legal work and to access services, and thus to enjoy better living conditions.

In many countries of Latin America, the institutions responsible for refugee status determination are centralised, far from the areas where asylum seekers arrive and live. JRS in Venezuela, Panama and Ecuador provides legal advice in border areas. The teams follow up cases throughout the refugee status procedure. In Ecuador, in 2009 and 2010, JRS collaborated with UNHCR and the government in a process of mass regularisation of 27,000 Colombian refugees.

JRS is now campaigning so that best practices which emerged from this process will be included in future procedures. The Cambodian government has recently implemented its own domestic legislation governing refugee status determination. In line with the new standards JRS Cambodia ensures that rejected asylum seekers are given reasons for the negative decisions they receive, as well as an adequate opportunity to appeal.