Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 09/2014

Combating Xenophobic Violence--A Framework for Action

December 2011

Human Rights First


Around the world, refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and others viewed as “foreign” have been the targets of violent attacks. Xenophobic, racist, and other forms of bias-motivated violence have a devastating and crippling effect on the targeted communities. This global problem will only escalate if not effectively addressed. In this era of increased global migration, and during a time of economic difficulties, those viewed as “foreign” are more vulnerable than ever, as they can be easy targets of blame—and anger—for political, economic, and societal ills.

Xenophobic and other bias-motivated violence has affected refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and others in different corners of the globe. A brutal anti-immigrant mob attack in Athens, injuring dozens; sub-Saharan African migrants targeted during the recent conflict in Libya; threats of anti-immigrant violence in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, recalling the 2008 wave of violence there; migrant workers from Central Asia assaulted in broad daylight on the busy Moscow subway; and racist harassment and violence against Haitians and stateless persons of Haitian descent continues in the Dominican Republic—these are just a few examples that have garnered domestic and international attention.

This Framework for Action builds upon reporting and advocacy that Human Rights First has conducted since 2002 as part of its efforts to combat all forms of bias-motivated violence across the globe. This document outlines some of the serious challenges that xenophobic and other bias-motivated violence presents to the protection of the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, stateless persons, migrants, and other persons viewed as “foreign.” The Framework for Action sets out concrete recommendations for States which, on the basis of their international obligations and other commitments, bear the primary responsibility for protecting all persons—including non-nationals—from xenophobic or other bias-motivated violence. Recognizing the important and differing roles of U.N. agencies, intergovernmental organizations, and other international entities, the Framework also includes recommendations for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and other bodies, according to their respective mandates and responsibilities.