Today, at the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council, the European Humanist Federation (EHF) delivered an oral statement on the situation of non-believer asylum seekers as part of “Item 4: Human Rights situations that require the Council’s attention”.
Among persons seeking asylum in Europe or other countries, many people are fleeing persecution based on their religious or philosophical convictions. The number of persons seeking asylum for grounds of non-belief is often widely underestimated. These persons may be atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, or being critical of the dominantly traditionalist interpretation or religion.
Immigration authorities are often not aware of the specific situation of these asylum seekers, in particular the risks they face in their home countries, to inadequate administrative questionnaires to assess claimants’ credibility.
Moreover, non-believer asylum seekers often endure pressures, discrimination or even violence in refugee reception and detention centres. This phenomenon forces them to hide their philosophical convictions and put them at risk even once they have reached a safe country.
The EHF recalls that international law protects the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including to have or not to have a religious belief, and to change or quit one’s religion, free from coercion.
Religion is one of the grounds for asylum mentioned in the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees. It includes the holding of non-theistic and atheistic beliefs.
The European Humanist Federation called on the Human Rights Council to monitor this issue, and to urge States to take all appropriate measures to protect the fundamental rights of persons seeking asylum because of persecution on the grounds of holding atheistic, humanist or rationalist philosophical convictions.
Featured photo credit: Eric Bridiers