Briefing Notes, 1 July 2011
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 1 July 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR has made recommendations to Poland on taking forward the EU asylum agenda, upon the commencement of its European Union Presidency today. This will be the first time that Poland has taken on the rotating EU Presidency since it joined the Union in 2004. In its paper, UNHCR highlights the fact that Poland assumes the Presidency on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention – the very instrument which protected many Polish refugees during the first 40 years of the Convention's existence. Today Poland is itself an asylum country. Last year, 6,540 persons applied for asylum in Poland – making it the 10th largest recipient country among the 27 EU member states.
The UNHCR recommendations focus on four areas: (1) The need for Europe to keep its borders open to people fleeing the crisis in Libya, and to show solidarity with Tunisia and Egypt, as the countries of first refuge; (2) the importance of continued efforts to build asylum capacity and protection space in countries at the EU's Eastern border as well as in the Western Balkans; (3) the work which remains to be done in order to build a truly Common European Asylum System, in view of continued major discrepancies in the practice of EU countries; and (4) the EU's potential contribution to UNHCR's Commemorations in 2011 of the 60th anniversary of the Refugee Convention and the 50th Anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. UNHCR encourages the EU to come to the December Ministerial Meeting which the High Commissioner is convening with concrete pledges of actions, in particular in the area of refugee resettlement. UNHCR further urges EU countries to accede to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions, pointing out that only 14 of the 27 EU Member States are Parties to both of these instruments.
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