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UNHCR calls on EU to ensure Asylum Pact is implemented with protection at its core

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UNHCR calls on EU to ensure Asylum Pact is implemented with protection at its core

10 January 2024
Yohannes, an Ethiopian refugee, was reunified with his mother in Belgium after having been evacuated from Sudan.

Yohannes, an Ethiopian refugee, was reunified with his mother in Belgium after having been evacuated from Sudan.

BRUSSELS – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling on Belgium and Hungary to use their 2024 European Union (EU) Presidencies as an opportunity to finalize the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum and to ensure the proper implementation of protection-sensitive reforms that respect and protect the right to seek asylum in the EU.

In a paper released today, UNHCR outlined seven key recommendations for the Presidencies of the Council following a welcomed provisional agreement on five legislative texts of the Pact. This comes ahead of the European elections in June.

UNHCR’s Recommendations for the Belgian and Hungarian Presidencies of the Council of the EU provide a practical roadmap, drawing on best practices from 2023, to benefit both people fleeing war and persecution and States.

“Our Goodwill Ambassador, Cate Blanchett said it best in her address to the European Parliament just a few months ago where she called on the EU to come together to put people, to put humanity - back at the center and the heart of asylum,” said Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, UNHCR’s Representative for EU Affairs.

“UNHCR is hopeful that this Pact is a step in the right direction to do just that and so we urge the EU Presidencies to mobilize the necessary political will as the Pact enters its final crucial stage and urge all Member States to act boldly in the best interest of refugees,” added Vargas Llosa.

UNHCR reiterates the need for sustainable, protection-sensitive reforms across the EU and stands ready to advise and support the EU Presidencies, Institutions and Member States in the creation of a collaborative and protection centered implementation plan.

The Pact, if implemented with sufficient safeguards, represents an opportunity to secure a comprehensive, well-managed and predictable approach to asylum and migration in the EU. Dangerous practices, such as the denial of access to territory and pushbacks cannot continue.

The continuing tragic loss of life in the Mediterranean highlights the urgent need for solidarity and safety at the heart of the EU’s action along migratory routes. In 2023 alone, more than 2,700 people lost their lives on dangerous journeys, attempting to cross the Mediterranean. UNHCR has long called for responsibility sharing across the bloc with those EU Member States where most asylum-seekers arrive, as well as timely search and rescue and swift disembarkation which will help prevent further loss of life for people who arrive by sea.

UNHCR urges the Presidencies to prioritize effective access to territory, fair and efficient asylum procedures as well as adequate reception conditions. The additional protection risks faced by those with specific needs must be addressed. Furthermore, detention should remain the exception, while investment in adequate and dignified reception arrangements or alternatives to detention should be prioritized. Dignified returns for people who are found not to be in need of international protection are equally crucial for a credible and functioning protection system.

Almost three-quarters of the world’s refugees and other people in need of international protection are living in low and middle-income countries, outside of the EU. UNHCR encourages the EU Presidencies to strengthen global solidarity and responsibility sharing in line with the Global Compact on Refugees by working with and providing more support to the countries and communities where most forcibly displaced people are hosted. This must include a stronger commitment to establish more safe pathways and increase resettlement. Such support should not substitute but must complement access to asylum in Europe.

“Beyond Europe’s borders, more assistance needs to be provided to those on the move at the earliest possible stage in order to reduce human suffering on dangerous journeys – namely by increasing support to host and transit countries for the protection and inclusion of people in need,” said Vargas Llosa.

UNHCR calls on the EU Presidencies to develop a comprehensive strategy and action plan to address statelessness within the EU.  UNHCR also urges the EU to ensure that commitments towards additional, flexible and predictable funding are implemented.

UNHCR remains ready to support the EU Presidencies, Institutions and Member States to ensure a well-functioning EU asylum system to better protect refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people in the EU and globally.


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