NGO Statement on Europe for UNHCR’s 47th Standing Committee Meeting

From the ICVA – International Council of Voluntary Agencies.   Excerpts from the NGO Statement:

“Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme

Standing Committee, 47th Meeting, 2-4 March 2010

NGO Statement on Europe

Agenda Item 3. (a) iii

This statement has been drafted in consultation with, and is delivered on behalf of, a wide range of NGOs and attempts to reflect the diversity of views within the NGO community.

[***] If we look at the asylum policies of the European Union (EU) and neighbouring countries, we detect a hesitation or shift away from the spirit of the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol.

In this statement, NGOs would like to draw attention to this trend in three policy areas. These are:

  • The limits on access to refugee protection in Europe;
  • The integration of refugees in European society; and
  • The externalisation of refugee protection.  [***]

Limits on Access to Protection in Europe

Access to territory

[***] EU border policies continue to be obsessed with security and combating irregular migration at the expense of providing access to those in need of international protection. There is now no legal way for an asylum-seeker to enter the EU. NGOs urges the Member States to collaborate with the European Commission, Parliament, Frontex, and the newly established European Asylum Support Office in developing guidelines on identifying those in need of international protection in mixed flows. UNHCR should be closely consulted in this process. [***]

Externalisation of Refugee Protection

[***] The Stockholm Programme raises the issue of external processing of asylum claims in transit countries. Careful consideration must be given to the potential role of UNHCR in joint processing and the responsibility of European countries in resettling those identified as in need of international protection. It should not be assumed that identified refugees will remain in the transit country. There remains significant concern from European NGOs regarding the legal, practical, and moral implications of such external processing if these trends continue.

Bilateral agreements, such as those between Spain and the West African countries of Senegal and Mauritania, do firmly place the burden of hosting refugees with the transit country. This trend is also visible in the agreements between Italy and Libya and the pushbacks in the Mediterranean.

What we can discern from these trends and those above, is that European policies favour refugees remaining in neighbouring regions rather than facilitating their access to Europe. These trends can only be met with condemnation as an obvious breach of human rights and States’ obligations. [***]

Closing Remark

Given the current negative trends in European refugee policies, it is important to look at initiatives that move in the opposite direction. NGOs are greatly supportive of the call in the Stockholm Programme for the EU to seek accession to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. This is made possible through the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty that gives the EU a legal personality. As such, we look forward to the different agencies of the EU, including Frontex and European Asylum Support Office, seeking guidance from and collaborating with the UNHCR. [***]”

Click here for full Statement.

Click here for link to other related documents on ICVA web site.

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Filed under European Union, Frontex, Statements, UNHCR

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