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UNHCR recommendations to new EU Presidency

Briefing notes

UNHCR recommendations to new EU Presidency

11 December 2007

In a paper released today, UNHCR encourages the upcoming Presidency of the European Union (EU) - to be held by Slovenia for the first half of 2008 - to focus on two main objectives: to ensure access to asylum in the Union and to maintain the EU's leading role in setting international protection standards.

UNHCR is concerned that measures introduced to curb irregular migration, or to fight against smuggling and trafficking, may prevent refugees from gaining access to EU territory and asylum procedures. UNHCR strongly encourages Slovenia to ensure that discussions on border and migration management do not undermine the fundamental right to seek asylum or international protection. This may apply to measures at land, air and sea borders, including interception and rescue at sea within or outside Member States' territorial waters.

Another concern is the gap between legislation and practice regarding the way in which asylum claims are dealt with by EU Member States. UNHCR hopes that discussions under the new Presidency will focus on how to reduce these discrepancies - which UNHCR has observed for groups such as Iraqis, Chechens, Sri Lankans and Somalis - and help ensure a high standard of protection across the Union.

While UNHCR is aware of the Presidency's interest in the issue of asylum in the context of the fight against terrorism, it urges the EU and its Member States to ensure that global insecurity does not impact negatively on public attitudes toward refugees and asylum seekers. This could undermine the integrity and nature of asylum.