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News Comment: UNHCR's Grandi urges EU leaders to keep supporting refugees in Europe, beyond

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News Comment: UNHCR's Grandi urges EU leaders to keep supporting refugees in Europe, beyond

The text below is attributed to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
8 February 2023

GENEVA - Tomorrow’s Special European Council in Brussels is a chance for European Union leaders to reaffirm solidarity and support for all refugees. When EU States opened their doors to refugees fleeing Ukraine, they clearly demonstrated their capacity for an organized and effective approach to protection and inclusion within Europe. This is exactly the type of leadership and collective action required to tackle the global displacement challenges of our time.

As conflict and insecurity persist, climate change worsens and global economic disparities widen, the numbers of people forcibly displaced or on the move in search of a better future continue to grow.   Renewed cooperation across regions and further innovations and investments are urgently needed to help States manage increasingly complex mixed movements and ensure protection for those in need—in Europe and in other host countries. Further investments are also urgently needed in countries of origin to address underlying causes of flight.

Global leadership begins at home, and supporting refugees outside Europe must not undermine and can never be a substitute for EU States’ own asylum obligations. While asylum applications to the EU have increased in recent months, the numbers remain manageable.

The EU’s draft Pact on Migration and Asylum provides a sound vision for improved solidarity within Europe, more efficient and effective screening and reception of new arrivals, and for more equitable responsibility-sharing and constructive engagement with States beyond the EU’s borders, where the vast majority of refugees and others in need of international protection reside. I renew my longstanding plea to Europe’s leaders to adopt and implement the New Pact.   

Europe has demonstrated its capacity to mobilize political will and act boldly in the interests of refugees. UNHCR welcomed the triggering of the Temporary Protection Directive last year, to ensure refugees from Ukraine are protected.  We applauded the June 2022 Solidarity Declaration as a sound basis for predictable search and rescue at sea and safe disembarkation. And we welcome the increased interest among Member States in resettling refugees in Europe. 

These are important steps, but the breadth and complexity of the challenges we face requires that Europe do more to share responsibility with refugee-hosting States in Europe, but also beyond, particularly low and middle-income countries. This will invariably mean new partnerships, the development of new approaches and tools, renewed commitment to invest in asylum capacity building in host States, and a commitment to uphold fundamental human rights and international obligations.

Managing borders, sharing responsibility and respecting human rights are fully compatible. UNHCR will continue to support States in finding and implementing innovative and humane solutions in line with international law to better protect refugees wherever they may be.

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