UNHCR’s key calls to the European Union to Better Protect Refugees
Conflict, violence and persecution are forcing more and more people to flee their homes. Most of them stay in their own country or flee to neighbouring countries, not Europe. Even though fewer people now seek safety in Europe, too many are still tragically dying at sea in search of a new future. Pushbacks and abuses at land borders also continue and many people seeking protection cannot enter Europe.
The European Union (EU) can play a leading role in protecting refugees in Europe and abroad, including by supporting the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees. This new global deal will help provide stronger support for the countries where most refugees live. It also encourages sharing more fairly the responsibility of helping those who are forced to flee their country and seek refuge elsewhere.
With a common response, EU countries can securely and humanely manage arrivals of people in a way that works for both refugees and the communities that host them. By supporting countries outside of Europe, the EU can also reduce dangerous journeys and help find long-term opportunities for refugees to thrive and not just survive.
What can the EU do to better protect refugees?
Here are seven actions:
1. Protect people’s right to safety and asylum
Every person fleeing conflict, persecution and violence has the right to seek safety. People seeking asylum at borders must be given a chance to do so. Children should never be detained, and adults only as a last resort for a short, defined period. Human rights apply to everyone and must be respected at all times.
2. Create fair and fast EU asylum procedures
People fleeing conflict, violence and persecution and arriving in the EU need to be quickly identified so that they can receive asylum and support. Those who do not qualify for protection also need to be rapidly identified and may be returned, with dignity and respect.
3. Show solidarity between EU countries
Responsibility for receiving as well as hosting people seeking safety and asylum can be shared in a fair and practical way by transferring asylum-seekers from countries who receive large numbers to other countries.
4. Offer more legal options for refugees to reach safety in Europe
With additional, steady commitment from EU states to resettlement and other safe and legal options, fewer people will undertake dangerous journeys to seek safety in Europe.
5. Save lives at sea
Too many people are dying while trying to cross the Mediterranean. So more search and rescue capacity and safe ports for disembarkation in Europe and beyond are needed. EU countries have to agree on where people rescued at sea can safely disembark.
6. Welcome refugees into their new homes
People rebuild their lives more quickly when they feel safe, live in decent conditions and can enjoy their human rights, including the right to education. When given the chance, refugees integrate and contribute greatly to their host societies.
7. Help refugees thrive wherever they are
EU support to countries all over the world will help refugees rebuild their lives wherever they are. When offered a future elsewhere, fewer people will try to make desperate journeys to reach Europe.