UNHCR urges further EU action on refugees

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.

UNHCR notes last night's decision of the European Council to relocate 40,000 people in need of international protection and to resettle 20,000 refugees. This is an important step along the way to finding answers to this crisis, but clearly much more will have to be done, including addressing root causes.

Amid the largest global forced displacement crisis of modern times it is essential that states work together to find answers, and that Europe shows leadership and vision in addressing the challenges of protecting the thousands of refugees who today are fleeing war.

On the agreed relocation of 40,000 people in clear need of international protection, the participation of all Member States will be key to success. These measures will need to be expanded to address current needs, and the fact that an increased proportion of sea arrivals are now taking place in Greece. This initiative can help to alleviate some pressure on Italy and Greece, but also needs to be accompanied by a better functioning of the Dublin system.

On the proposal for EU-wide resettlement of 20,000 refugees, UNHCR urges Member States to make concrete commitments towards this goal, beyond existing resettlement quotas. We are also calling on Member States to offer other legal avenues for people in need of international protection - including a more effective, timely and consistent application of family reunification procedures, as put forward in the Commission's European Agenda on Migration. Providing realistic and substantial alternative channels for people to reach safety will also be a way to support international efforts to combat smuggling and trafficking.

UNHCR has long recognised the importance of return programmes for people not in need of international protection to preserve the integrity of asylum systems and, in this regard, notes that such policies should be implemented in line with fundamental rights and the principle of non-refoulement.

While the European Council acknowledges the necessity for cooperation with countries of origin, first asylum/transit, root causes need to be tackled. In the context of forced displacement, finding political solutions to conflicts and human rights violations, together with increasing development cooperation, are critically needed. Furthermore, today, major humanitarian operations such as Syria and Central African Republic are dramatically underfunded. Through more targeted assistance, including development initiatives, the resilience and self-reliance of refugees and internally displaced populations could be strengthened, allowing them to live their lives with hope and dignity.

UNHCR stands ready to collaborate with EU Member States and EU institutions, as well as other partners, in making these objectives a reality. Now is the time for all EU Member States to show strong commitment and leadership in supporting and building on these measures.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In London, Andrej Mahecic on mobile +44 78 8023 0985
  • In Paris, Philippe Leclerc on office no. +33 1 44 43 48 50
  • In Rome, Carlotta Sami on mobile +39 335 679 4746
  • In Madrid, Maria Jesus Vega on mobile, +34 670 661 263
  • In Berlin, Stefan Teloeken on mobile +49 170 416 12 29
  • In Budapest, Babar Baloch on mobile +36 30 530 9633
  • In Stockholm, Markku Aikomus on mobile +46 70 89 90 169
  • In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • In Geneva, William Spindler on mobile +41 79 217 3011