(MENAFN - Arab News) The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) ended a two-day international ministerial conference on refugees in the Muslim world in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, yesterday.
The conference focused on the refugee situation in the Muslim world. The OIC's 57 member states, non-member states, NGOs and international organizations participated in the event and shed light on the hospitality and assistance extended by OIC member states to refugees and asylum-seekers.
In 2011 OIC states hosted more than 17 million people, comprising refugees, asylum-seekers, returnees, internally displaced people and the stateless, which represent 50 percent of those of concern to the UN refugee agency.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antnio Guterres encouraged further actions to address the root causes of displacement. He also stressed the need to enhance refugee protection in OIC member states. This included multilateral cooperation to share the burden and responsibility, to protect and assist refugees and voluntary repatriation.
Drawing a comparison between Islamic teachings and current refugee law, the high commissioner urged member states of the OIC to take into account the long-standing principles of providing asylum and enshrine them in national legislation.
"Islamic law and traditions embrace the principle of providing protection to those who seek asylum," Guterres told delegates. He added, "It also forbids their forced return. Both of these principles are cornerstones of international refugee law." He urged the OIC countries that have not already done so, to accede to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.
Addressing the Afghan refugee situation, now more than 30 years old, Guterres pointed to a regional solutions strategy agreed between Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan and UNHCR, as a recent success.