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UNHCR concerned about restricted access to asylum in Europe

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UNHCR concerned about restricted access to asylum in Europe

20 June 1997

UNHCR expressed serious concern today about the European Union's decision to restrict EU citizens' access to asylum.

The Protocol to the EC Treaty adopted on Tuesday by the 15 EU member states during the Summit in Amsterdam places a limitation on asylum by allowing the EU states to use their discretion when accepting asylum applications from EU citizens.

UNHCR said that such a decision goes against an important element of the 1951 Refugee Convention which guarantees unqualified access to asylum.

"We are very concerned at the EU decision. If the EU applies limitations to the Convention, others can follow and could weaken the universality of the instrument for the international protection of refugees. We do not, therefore, share the position taken in the preamble stating that the protocol respects the Convention," UNHCR's Spokesperson said.

UNHCR's mandate is to promote universal and unconditional application of the international Convention on refugees. While recognizing the high standards of human rights achieved in EU member countries and States' legitimate preoccupation that asylum procedures should not be abused, especially by presumed terrorists, UNHCR maintains that those issues can be addressed through the proper application of the refugee Convention or through state legislation.

UNHCR has expressed concern to the EU states that the introduction of geographical restrictions to asylum is not fully consistent with the international responsibilities assumed by states which ratified the Convention.

UNHCR welcomes the declaration made by at least one state of its intention to receive and consider all asylum applications, irrespective of their country of origin.