UNHCR Recommendations for Belgian EU Presidency

Briefing Notes, 25 June 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 25 June 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

This week we issued recommendations for the Belgian EU Presidency which starts on July 1 for a six month term. As the EU works to establish a Common European Asylum System (CEAS), UNHCR suggests six steps toward greater coherence in European asylum policy and practice.

A Common European Asylum System is based on the assumption that the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees is equal throughout the European Union. This is far from being the case at present. There are major discrepancies in conditions of reception and in the assessment of claims. The establishment of the European Asylum Support Office, which should start operating during the Belgian Presidency, will be an important step toward improved coherence and quality of European asylum systems. UNHCR supports reinforced practical co-operation to achieve these ends.

The recommendations include improving legislative standards, especially where current EU norms diverge from international refugee law. UNHCR encourages the Council and the Parliament to agree to a number of amendments to the main EU asylum instruments, the Reception Conditions Directives, the Qualification Directive and the Asylum Procedures Directive. UNHCR also supports the proposal to enable the temporary suspension of the Dublin II Regulation, when participating states are facing particular pressures which their asylum systems cannot manage. The Dublin II Regulation designates the Member State responsible for examining an asylum claim.

UNHCR expresses particular concern about the detention of asylum-seekers, the need to reinforce respect for the rights of children who seek asylum alone, and to make sure that Europe's borders do not become impenetrable for those who are seeking protection.

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UNHCR's Recommendations to Poland for its EU Presidency

July-December 2011. Also available in Spanish on Refworld.

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Drifting Towards Italy

Every year, Europe's favourite summer playground - the Mediterranean Sea - turns into a graveyard as hundreds of men, women and children drown in a desperate bid to reach European Union (EU) countries.

The Italian island of Lampedusa is just 290 kilometres off the coast of Libya. In 2006, some 18,000 people crossed this perilous stretch of sea - mostly on inflatable dinghies fitted with an outboard engine. Some were seeking employment, others wanted to reunite with family members and still others were fleeing persecution, conflict or indiscriminate violence and had no choice but to leave through irregular routes in their search for safety.

Of those who made it to Lampedusa, some 6,000 claimed asylum. And nearly half of these were recognized as refugees or granted some form of protection by the Italian authorities.

In August 2007, the authorities in Lampedusa opened a new reception centre to ensure that people arriving by boat or rescued at sea are received in a dignified way and are provided with adequate accommodation and medical facilities.

Drifting Towards Italy

Too Much Pain: The Voices of Refugee Women, part 1/6Play video

Too Much Pain: The Voices of Refugee Women, part 1/6

Stories of refugee women who have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and are engaged to end this practice. These women explain their experiences of flight, asylum and integration in the EU.