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Lubbers raises concerns over draft EU asylum directives


Lubbers raises concerns over draft EU asylum directives

If adopted, the draft Asylum Procedures Directive and the Qualification Directive, which will be discussed at an EU ministers' meeting tomorrow, could lead to a contravention of international law and an erosion of the global asylum system, says UNHCR chief Ruud Lubbers.
29 March 2004
The EU asylum directives now under discussion could lead to the forced return of asylum seekers like this family in the Czech Republic's Zustavka u Brna reception centre.

GENEVA, March 29 (UNHCR) - UN refugee agency chief Ruud Lubbers has raised concerns about two draft directives on asylum in the European Union that, if adopted, could lead to a contravention of international law, an erosion of the global asylum system, and jeopardise the lives of future refugees.

The High Commissioner made these remarks in a statement released on Monday, a day before EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers are scheduled to discuss in Brussels the last two of five major pieces of legislation to harmonise EU asylum law. Lubbers also sent a letter on the issue last week to Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, current holder of the EU Presidency.

The points of contention rest with the draft Qualification Directive, which defines who qualifies as a refugee and who qualifies for subsidiary protection; and the draft Asylum Procedures Directive, which determines how that decision is reached in the case of each individual.

In his press statement Monday, the High Commissioner noted that the cumulative effect of these measures is that real refugees risk being forced back to their home countries, where they face possible persecution. The draft legislation, if passed in its present form, "could have a knock-on effect that might weaken the protection of refugees all across the world. Other countries will look at the EU and say, 'If they can do this, so can we.'"

He urged the EU to remember the original intentions of the harmonisation process, "which was to produce a common European asylum system, based - and here I quote the Tampere Conclusions - 'on the absolute respect for the right to seek asylum' and the 'full and inclusive application' of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. We need to revive that spirit."