EU needs fair and efficient asylum system, says Lubbers
GENEVA, Nov 5 (UNHCR) - As European Union leaders meet today to set Europe's asylum and migration agenda for the next five years, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers has urged them to shun political expediency in favour of a reliable system that is fair and efficient.
In an editorial addressed to EU presidents and prime ministers at the two-day European Council summit in Brussels that ends today, Lubbers noted that although the number of people claiming asylum in the EU has dropped to a manageable level, "the crisis rhetoric still continues, often fuelled by thinly disguised xenophobia and political opportunism."
While he acknowledged that there was no quick fix to complex global issues like illegal immigration, the High Commissioner stressed, "The EU can provide many of the answers to the migration and asylum problems affecting member states. But it cannot do so as long as individual member states put short-term domestic political interests ahead of the long-term common good."
He pointed out existing problems like the differing standards of refugee recognition across EU countries, the inefficiency of asylum systems and the absence of real integration chances for refugees and immigrants.
For European governments to manage rather than simply react to the asylum challenge, they need to share, not shift burdens, and to harmonise not only their laws but also their practice.
Lubbers said he was encouraged that some ministers have started stressing the importance of finding solutions in refugees' regions of origin, noting that "millions of refugees in the developing world deserve much more political and financial investment to help them return home once that is possible, and in the meantime to ensure they have a safe and decent existence."
On the issue of irregular migration, he called for a system that provides opportunities for refugees and migrants to come to Europe legally. "A policy built on exclusion is not only morally reprehensible, it is also impractical: it will simply push all forms of migration, including refugees, further underground."
He added, "By legitimising those we want - instead of secretly profiting from their illicit labour in our orchards, hotels and hospital wards - we can take back control from people-smugglers and traffickers."
The High Commissioner concluded by urging EU leaders to concentrate on creating a good asylum and migration system that is fair and efficient, not simply one that is fast. "A reliable system that identifies and then protects refugees is what Europeans want and refugees deserve," he said.