BHA speaks out against treatment of refugees at UN Human Rights Council

15 March, 2016

Cordelia Tucker O’Sullivan at the UN Human Rights Council.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has this afternoon spoken out against the treatment of refugees fleeing civil war and IS in Syria by European countries, and globally, as part of the 31st regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.

The number of people who have fled Syria is estimated at around 4.8 million, with millions more internally displaced, amounting to half of the Syrian population. It is estimated that there are around 26,000 unaccompanied child refugees in Europe, who are vulnerable to trafficking, prostitution, and child labour.

In a speech to the assembled nations of the UNHRC, BHA delegate Cordelia Tucker O’Sullivan reminded the Council that many of the refugees have fled attacks led by Government forces on civilian residential areas, and IS controlled zones where IS enforce their strict interpretation of Islamic law, carrying out public executions, including of those accused of ‘apostasy, adultery… or because of their real or perceived sexual orientation’.

The BHA condemned the actions of some far-right activists, who have recently attacked refugees in Calais, and the rise of populist politics and xenophobia; and reminded the Council that refugees are ‘first and foremost human beings, and hence worthy of all the protections guaranteed under international law’.

Ms Tucker O’Sullivan concluded by stating that the BHA supported the eight key actions for the protection of refugees put forward by Amnesty International during the previous regular session of the UNHRC last September, and urged the Council to pressure the relevant states to live up to their duties under the UN Convention on Refugees, in particular its core principle of responsibility and burden sharing.


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The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethically and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.