Sen. de Lima files bill protecting refugees, stateless people

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(File photo) Senator Leila De Lima

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 24) — Senator Leila de Lima filed a bill to protect the rights of refugees and stateless persons.

Senate Bill No. (SB) 1854 or the Refugees and Stateless Persons Protection Act of 2018, was filed at the Senate on June 20.

In a statement Sunday, de Lima said "Refugees are a global phenomenon.  In different parts of the world, large groups of people are forced to leave their home countries because of war, armed conflicts, and persecution. They are in search of safer places."

Despite hosting several waves of refugees, the country still has no law "that sets the criteria and fixes the procedure in determining the status of refugees and stateless persons," de Lima added.

The Senator said SB 1854 aims to recognize and protect refugees and stateless persons in the country, and establish a Protection Board.

The bill would also create a criterion to determine whether a person is a refugee or stateless person.

The bill provides that the state would not expel refugees from the Philippines, unless on grounds of national security or public order,  to a country where they would be at risk of persecution. This could be for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

The Philippines would not also impose penalties on persons who have entered the country illegally provided they can give a good reason for being in the Philippines. The state also would not restrict their movement until they have regular status.

President Rodrigo Duterte previously expressed his willingness to take in Rohingya refugees in April.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also said the country has always had an "open door policy" for refugees.