Asylum seekers’ rights at risk from those openly denying human rights – Higgins
President Michael D Higgins said creating a popular culture of human rights has never been more urgent.
President Michael D Higgins has said the right to asylum is being put at risk by some political forces openly denying human rights.
Mr Higgins also said creating a popular culture of human rights has never been more urgent than it is today.
He made the comments during a speech to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Mr Higgins said: “We are now witnessing political forces who do not even attempt to wear the mask of human rights – there are those who now openly deny rights won through long and difficult struggles and who glory in discrimination, racism and a crude, xenophobic form of nationalism.”
He added that the danger was not only in the direct political power they wield but in the “poisonous influence” that they exert.
“That danger is most acute, and most present, in the attacks on Article 14 of the Universal Declaration, the right to seek and enjoy asylum, and on the Refugee Conventions,” he said.
Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”.
Mr Higgins added that the threats to human rights emanate not only from states, but from “unaccountable agglomerations of private power”, some of which exercise “extreme power, far greater and more extensive than that of the state”.
Speaking @CEVMansionHouse this morning President Michael D Higgins said: “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed on this day 70 years ago by the United Nations General Assembly is correctly regarded as one of the great moral achievements of the 20th century.” pic.twitter.com/7JMKxm4Gxj— Michelle Devane (@michelledevane) December 10, 2018
During the first keynote address of his second term as president, Mr Higgins also raised the issue of climate change.
“In the 21st century, the single greatest, overwhelming challenge will be overcoming what threatens to be an ecological collapse and doing so in a manner that can fulfil the needs of all of the people of the planet in a just and sustainable way,” he said.
Mr Higgins said three years ago the members of the United Nations met in New York and Paris to conclude what he described as “two remarkable demonstrations of global solidarity”: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Accord.
“They have the potential to be the means by which we organise and measure our success or failure in this century,” he said.
He continued that achieving the goals within the accord will be “profoundly difficult without a radical change to the manner in which we produce, consume and live”.
Raising the issue of homelessness and shelter, Mr Higgins noted that the United Nations declaration affords people a legal right to housing.
He said: “In Ireland today, the question of a right to security of shelter and a home is most pressing for those of our people who are left out of the housing system and forced into homelessness.
“There is not, as yet, a justiciable right to home or housing in either legislation or our constitution, although the Convention on the Constitution had an important discussion on social and economic rights, which I would hope will be continued. I wish it well.”
Article 25 of the Universal Declaration contains such a right.
Mr Higgins added: “Vindicating that right will not, and cannot, be a matter solely for courts or lawyers alone, but will fundamentally be a question of how we wish our housing system to be structured. It will be, and we cannot avoid it, a question of politics.”
He continued: “More fundamentally, we should ask to what degree do we as a society wish to ‘commodify’ housing and treat the home as an economic good, to be supplied for and by the market.”
Mr Higgins described the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as one of the great moral achievements of the 20th century.
But he said that as people reflect, 70 years on, fundamental rights were being denied, ignored and under threat as never before.