Guterres: The EU needs to harmonise asylum systems

Thursday 27, March 2008 Ljubljana, March 27 (UNHCR) – During his one-day visit to Slovenia on 26 March, High Commissioner António Guterres underlined the need for a harmonised asylum system in Europe. Current inconsistencies between national asylum systems compel people to move around the EU in search of protection, the […]

Thursday 27, March 2008

Ljubljana, March 27 (UNHCR) – During his one-day visit to Slovenia on 26 March, High Commissioner António Guterres underlined the need for a harmonised asylum system in Europe.

Current inconsistencies between national asylum systems compel people to move around the EU in search of protection, the head of the UN Refugee Agency explained to senior officials of Slovenia which is currently holding the EU Presidency.

Guterres had talks with President Danilo Türk, Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel and Interior Minister Dragutin Mate, and Vice President of the National Assembly Vasja Klavora with whom he launched the Handbook for Parliamentarians on Statelessness and Nationality. He also had a meeting with refugee NGOs, visited the Asylum Home and spoke with asylum-seekers

When up to 90 percent of Iraqi asylum seekers are recognised in Sweden and zero percent get protection in Greece, they will move accordingly, Guterrres explained. The lack of a harmonised asylum system prompts asylum seekers to disappear from one country and move on to another. In the public opinion this search for protection is interpreted as an abuse of the system, which is not the case.

Guterres called for swift harmonisation, but he cautioned that the EU should not neglect the quality of the asylum system: “Europe has a common space and common borders but the only thing that is common in the asylum system is a drift towards minimum standards,” said the High Commissioner. In this regard, he called for improvements in the asylum system in Slovenia as well.

The talks in Slovenia took place in a friendly and cooperative atmosphere. Most interlocutors wanted to hear UNHCR’s views on the asylum-migration nexus. Guterres said that it was of utmost important that people in need of protection have access to EU territory. He mentioned the Canary Islands and Lampedusa as examples of “impeccable cooperation” between UNHCR, the concerned governments and NGOs in managing very difficult mixed population movements.

Melita H. Sunjic in Ljubljana, Slovenia