UNHCR issues recommendations to the Swedish EU Presidency

Briefing Notes, 23 June 2009

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 23 June 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR has published its recommendations to Sweden for its upcoming EU Presidency (July December 2009), which will be a particularly critical period for the future of EU asylum policy. During the second half of this year, the EU will adopt a new multiannual programme in the area of Justice and Home Affairs which will determine the course of EU law and policy on asylum from 2010 through 2014.

UNHCR calls on Sweden to use its Presidency to reassert the importance of a rights-based approach to border management and migration control. Recent events, including Italy's push-backs of boat people and elections in which anti-immigrant parties scored big gains in a number of EU countries, give rise to concern about Europe's commitment to ensuring access to protection.

UNHCR supports strengthened solidarity among EU Member States, to assist those facing particular pressures resulting from the arrival of irregular migrants and asylum seekers, and suggests a menu of options in this respect which could include the relocation from one Member State to another of persons recognized as refugees. But UNHCR points out that this should not be at the expense of solidarity with non-EU countries hosting large refugee populations. UNHCR appeals for much stronger EU engagement in refugee resettlement, pointing out that the EU currently offers less than 10% of global resettlement places.

UNHCR's recommendations also stress the need to improve the quality and consistency of decision-making on asylum claims across the EU. The current situation, whereby applications from persons of the same nationality and with similar case histories have totally different outcomes from one country to another undermines the very premise of a Common European Asylum System. UNHCR hopes that the planned European Asylum Support Office will give top priority to this matter.

Although the European Commission's proposals for amendment of existing EU laws of asylum have met with considerable resistance from Member States, UNHCR believes that legislative amendments are needed to fill gaps and improve standards. UNHCR points out that more systematic observation and evaluation of the practice of EU countries is needed in order to identify best practices as well as shortcomings.