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  • Good evening, everybody!

  • Thank you so much for inviting me

  • because this is really a great honor to speak in this school of law.

  • I'm not a lawyer, unfortunately,

  • and I would appreciate if I would be.

  • But I worked for many years as a diplomat,

  • but I've taken some time off my duties.

  • I'm here not in my capacity as a diplomat

  • but more like somebody who is working for the NGO,

  • who is protecting the refugees.

  • I worked many years for the international organization,

  • so I was able to somehow learn a little bit about the international law.

  • So, Massimo was very ambitiously saying

  • that he can answer the question

  • why the members of The Church of Almighty God are not accepted as refugees.

  • It's an open question to all of us: Why?

  • And my presentation today

  • is trying to show you the arguments

  • that these people should be accepted as refugees.

  • Because clearly they are persecuted in China,

  • clearly they are caught beyond the law.

  • As you remember,

  • it was in the previous presentations

  • that mentioned the Criminal Code of China, Article 300,

  • where it clearly said that they should be persecuted.

  • If they are caught

  • so they will be put in prison for three to seven years or more.

  • So it's clearly a persecution.

  • Even further these people are not only persecuted,

  • because persecution in a way might be mild persecution, right?

  • You are not able completely to practice your faith,

  • but we have quite many examples of the people who were even tortured.

  • Because they are really destroyed for life

  • and carried very deep trauma to this very day.

  • So, the arguments for the members of The Church of Almighty God

  • is, first of all, those people are not migrants.

  • They are not seeking jobs,

  • and they are not seeking financial assistance.

  • Because it's very important that

  • these people live in a very closed community and they help each other.

  • So even here you see some people

  • who are the brothers and sisters of that group.

  • For them, there is really a question of the protection.

  • The membership is very easy to define,

  • because they are so close to each other.

  • They keep in touch, in particular those who flee China,

  • so they really stay in touch all the time to help each other.

  • But the context all of you understand right now

  • is very unfavorable (for them),

  • because we see what is happening in Europe

  • all this bad discourse that is against the refugees.

  • Even the media very often is involved in the bad or fake news.

  • Because the people who flee in particular in Europe,

  • we see not all of their images are refugees.

  • Most of them are illegal migrants

  • who just paid money for the human traffickers

  • with the aim to cross the borders and enter Europe.

  • Some of them are pretending to be refugees,

  • and some of them are refugees.

  • So it's a very difficult situation.

  • And there is another problem that, I believe in Australia is the same, we have right now

  • is that far rights parties are slowly becoming more and more strong,

  • and their discourse somehow reach people,

  • and kind of radicalization of the society is taking place.

  • The process is slow,

  • most perhaps at the beginning or in the middle of the process.

  • In this context,

  • it's very difficult, in particular seeing the images from Europe,

  • for the authorities to really distinguish who is who

  • and give the protection to people who really need the protection.

  • As we already saw from the previous presentations

  • that the members of The Church of Almighty God, they really need protection

  • because they will be persecuted (if deported).

  • The situation right now is that

  • only in three countries

  • they don't have the major problems to get the refugee status.

  • They are the United States, Canada, and Sweden.

  • Unfortunately,

  • in other countries like South Korea and many European countries

  • it is very difficult for them to get the status,

  • and most of them are rejected on the ground of many reasons.

  • First of all,

  • authorities very often don't recognize that they are persecuted,

  • that this group is really persecuted.

  • Sometimes the argument is that it is not a religion.

  • In France, there are a few people put in jail

  • but most of the cases they are still at least

  • But at the same time,

  • these people live in a permanent fear and insecurity.

  • My aim today

  • is to remind of the definitions of International Law

  • and the countries which signed the conventions.

  • So we abide by the international norms,

  • and I believe it's a very good place here

  • to remind of these documents and definitions which should be really implemented

  • and that people should be granted refugee status.

  • So, first of all, it is who is refugee.

  • We have International Refugee Law,

  • entire sets of the document, right?

  • So then here you see clearly the definition on who is the refugee.

  • And as you see in the definition,

  • a refugee is the person who is outside his or her own country

  • owning for fear of persecution on protected grounds.

  • And protected grounds— I appreciate your introduction very much today,

  • is that religion or even larger,

  • because I always prefer the freedom of consciousness or freedom of belief.

  • It's not important what we believe,

  • (the important point) is we have the inherent right

  • to believe in what we believe.

  • So, religion is very much part of the protected ground.

  • So the religion, as I mentioned, is that they always use.

  • The scholars like Massimo Introvigne,

  • they try to define what is a religion to defend a religion,

  • but in fact, that is not important.

  • If they are persecuted because of their beliefs,

  • there is already a persecution and there is a protected ground.

  • My understanding of the concept is that it is also included.

  • As you see,

  • United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • (I believe as now they are celebrated 70 years

  • for this very important declaration)

  • is that everyone has the right to the freedom of thought,

  • consciousness and religion.

  • What is really very important for me

  • and I believe it's always underlined in the Human Rights Council in Geneva

  • that it is an individual right.

  • So, we are not defending religion,

  • we are not really defending the dogma,

  • and it is an individual right to protect.

  • We defend person's right to believe and confess what they have.

  • And then in the same declaration we have Article 14,

  • Everyone has the right to seek

  • and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

  • The origin of International Refugee Law is,

  • everything started just after the Second World War,

  • when the 60 million refugees were in Europe,

  • and then we started to create norms, defining and looking for it.

  • For this reason,

  • in 1950 we created United Nations High Commissioner for RefugeesUNHCR.

  • Then we also created in 1951 the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugee.

  • Because the first document was limited to geography of Europe,

  • in 1967 we have the Protocol

  • which now extends the scope of Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

  • But being lawyers, you know better than me

  • that very often the convention is not enough.

  • We need interpretation and etc.

  • So, in 2004 UNHCR prepared the guidelines

  • where we have a lot of help

  • on how to interpret certain aspects in considering the refugee questions.

  • As we well know and believe right now when you look around the world,

  • this is really the trends they're taking in many countries.

  • There is a clear connection:

  • If in a country there is a lack of democracy, lack of rule of law,

  • it is the natural way to violation of human rights and freedoms.

  • So, China is the case, Russia is the case, Turkey is the case.

  • So when there are violations of human rights and freedoms

  • certainly the intolerance starts to rise,

  • and then another level is discrimination,

  • and then is persecution and even maybe a torture.

  • And I believe in the case of The Church of Almighty God,

  • it is exactly we have this tendency of spiraling down

  • slowly, slowly into the situation that is very dangerous.

  • So, that is the remainder of the persecution.

  • The persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group

  • by another individual or group.

  • The most common forms are the religious persecution as we see,

  • racism, and political persecution.

  • Non-refoulement, that is humanitarian law, international humanitarian law.

  • The states should be very careful

  • and not return the people who might be persecuted in their country.

  • As I mentioned, in some countries,

  • there is, for instance, the authorities when they analyze the cases,