Geneva - Shared goals for supporting refugees in the MENA region and Europe were discussed this week by representatives from the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and the United Nations Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR), with a particular focus on the situation in Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan and the challenge faced by Middle Eastern asylum seekers overseas.

A Euro-Med Monitor team met in Geneva with Alexander Taylor, head of the UNHCR Operations Unit for Syria and Iraq, and George Gekas, its chief protection official. They focused in part on the situation of Palestinian refugees from Iraq, many of whom have fled to the Syrian border or European countries, especially Sweden and Norway. Because of their Palestinian ancestry, and thus are traditionally dealt with by another UN agency (UNRWA), these refugees frequently are awarded no status at all. The UNHCR promised to pressure European countries to grant them permanent residency.

Likewise, Euro-Med Monitor and UNHCR agreed on the necessity of intervening with the countries neighboring Syria to allow Palestinians who had been living there to seek asylum, as well as to take steps to reduce the need for child labor among refugee families.

Finally, both parties discussed the increasingly hostile environment for foreigners, especially refugees, in Europe and its dangers to communal peace and stability. Euro-Med Monitor and UNHCR agreed on the need to organize campaigns to raise awareness of the contributions of migrants and refugees to the development of modern Europe—especially today in countries with aging populations. Due to the continuing flow of “death boats” across the Mediterranean, they also explored how to cooperate with the EU to launch rescue operations, as well as facilitating legal migration and asylum applications.