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UNHCR's Lubbers urges EU to take global view on asylum

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UNHCR's Lubbers urges EU to take global view on asylum

9 February 2001

Stockholm - UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers on Thursday urged the EU to keep the asylum door open and pursue European harmonization of asylum policy in tandem with a global approach to the refugee problem.

Addressing a meeting of European Union Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs in Stockholm, Lubbers called on European governments to join UNHCR in "a more strategic and comprehensive" approach to refugees and to explore "meaningful preventive action" in countries that produce refugees.

"If the EU would only spend a small percentage of its development funds ... for preventive and durable solutions for the large numbers of refugees in protracted situations in many corners of the world," he said, "it would make an enormous difference."

In addition to pursuing a common asylum system, he urged European governments to adopt a common policy with regard to capacity building in Central and Eastern Europe.

The High Commissioner issued an invitation to the ministers to attend a global conference of states that have acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention in Geneva on 12 December. The conference is a key part of a "Global Consultations" process launched by UNHCR with the aim of strengthening refugee protection as well as improving the coherence and consistency of the global asylum system. Lubbers stressed that the Global Consultations and the ongoing development of a Common European Asylum System are complementary processes.

"The success of the Global Consultations will depend upon the European Union's viewpoint being fully reflected in the discussions," he said. "The principles of the harmonized European asylum system - for better or worse - will spread rapidly."

Stressing the importance of the 1951 Refugee Convention - marking its 50th anniversary this year - Lubbers warned that imaginative efforts "to tackle the problem at the source will not justify closing the asylum door in Europe ... in any case, no wall will be high enough to prevent people from coming."