UNHCR Recommendations for Belgian EU Presidency

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing 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.