UNHCR's recommendations to the EU German Presidency

Briefing Notes, 15 December 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 15 December 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

On January 1, 2007, Germany will take over the Presidency of the EU. In a public document presented to the German government this week, UNHCR makes a series of recommendations on key refugee protection issues. In particular, UNHCR encourages the Presidency to lead a wide-ranging discussion on the steps needed to complete the establishment of a Common European Asylum System by 2010.

Political action and strong commitment are needed to ensure that people in need of international protection have effective access to EU territory and to fair and effective asylum procedures. In UNHCR's view, a considerable amount of work is still necessary to ensure that refugees receive protection in a consistent manner across the European Union's soon-to-be 27 member states. UNHCR welcomes the German Presidency's announcement that it intends to bring more attention to the situation of the EU's external borders.

UNHCR appreciates efforts to promote practical cooperation among the EU member states on asylum issues, and appeals for a renewed focus on the quality of asylum decision-making. It also highlights the need for a transparent discussion of the future of the Dublin II Regulation, which establishes the criteria and mechanisms for determining which EU member state is responsible for examining a person's asylum claim.

While welcoming Germany's plans to promote the integration of foreigners in the European Union, UNHCR requests the Presidency to ensure that the particular needs of refugees are taken into account. UNHCR also supports efforts to establish a EU resettlement scheme for refugees. At present only a handful of European countries offer places for the resettlement of refugees who cannot remain in their first countries of asylum.

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Abdu finds his voice in Germany

When bombs started raining down on Aleppo, Syria, in 2012, the Khawan family had to flee. According to Ahmad, the husband of Najwa and father of their two children, the town was in ruins within 24 hours.

The family fled to Lebanon where they shared a small flat with Ahmad's two brothers and sisters and their children. Ahmad found sporadic work which kept them going, but he knew that in Lebanon his six-year-old son, Abdu, who was born deaf, would have little chance for help.

The family was accepted by Germany's Humanitarian Assistance Programme and resettled into the small central German town of Wächtersbach, near Frankfurt am Main. Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges and a forest, the village has an idyllic feel.

A year on, Abdu has undergone cochlear implant surgery for the second time. He now sports two new hearing aids which, when worn together, allow him to hear 90 per cent. He has also joined a regular nursery class, where he is learning for the first time to speak - German in school and now Arabic at home. Ahmed is likewise studying German in a nearby village, and in two months he will graduate with a language certificate and start looking for work. He says that he is proud at how quickly Abdu is learning and integrating.

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

Through the Clouds to Germany: One Syrian Family's Journey

On Wednesday, Germany launched a humanitarian programme to provide temporary shelter and safety to up to 5,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. A first group of 107 flew to Hanover in the northern city of Hanover. They will attend cultural orientation courses to prepare them for life over the next two years in Germany, where they will be able to work, study and access basic services. Among the group are Ahmad and his family, including a son who is deaf and needs constant care that was not available in Lebanon. The family fled from Syria in late 2012 after life became too dangerous and too costly in the city of Aleppo, where Ahmad sold car spare parts. Photographer Elena Dorfman followed the family in Beirut as they prepared to depart for the airport and their journey to Germany.

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