Western governments curtailing human rights over fear of refugees: rights group

ISTANBUL - Western governments fearful of terror attacks and the potential threat posed by refugees are shortchanging human rights and adopting counterproductive policies in the name of security, Human Rights Watch said in its world report Wednesday.

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HRW executive director Kenneth Roth chided Europe and the United States "for blatant Islamophobia and shameless demonizing of refugees," warning this creates "the kind of division and animosity that terrorist recruiters love to exploit."

The organization unveiled its annual report reviewing human rights practices around the world in Istanbul. Turkey is home to 2.2 million Syrian refugees and the main departure point for migrants headed to Europe.

There are more than 60 million people displaced by war or repression, according to HRW.

Roth writes that the estimated 1 million asylum seekers who reached Europe by sea in 2015 would represent only 0.20 per cent of the European Union population if resettlement sharing occurred.

"Creating a safe and orderly way for refugees to make their way to Europe would reduce lives lost at sea while helping immigration officials to screen out security risks," Roth said.

Policy makers in the US and Europe, he said, are using the terrorist threat as an opportunity to expand law-enforcement powers, including mass surveillance.

Meanwhile, Russia and China have embarked on the largest crackdown on civil society in decades, according to the 659-page report reviewing more than 90 countries. It noted similar trends in Turkey, Kenya, Sudan, South Africa and Israel.

Human Rights Watch celebrated gains for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in 2015 - including the legalization of same-sex marriage in Ireland, Mexico, and the United States. Mozambique decriminalized homosexuality.

The organization noted that roughly one in three girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18, and more than 1 million children are behind bars.


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