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High Commissioner addresses EU ministers

Briefing notes

High Commissioner addresses EU ministers

1 October 2004

The High Commissioner has just finished taking part in a video conference with EU ministers attending the informal Justice and Home Affairs Council in Scheveningen, the Netherlands. During his discussion with the ministers, Mr. Lubbers presented UNHCR's recommendations for the coming EU multi-annual programme in the area of freedom, justice and security. He noted that Europe is now moving into the second phase of building a common asylum system and appealed to member states not to align their policies with the lowest standards allowed by the EU asylum directives agreed during the first 5-year phase. Instead, he asked them to devote the necessary resources to ensuring the highest possible quality of refugee protection.

Lubbers also called for a much more coordinated approach to asylum and urged the ministers to build a truly European space for refugees, rather than a series of national spaces. He noted that while asylum claims have declined sharply in the EU as a whole and in the industrialized countries generally, they are rising in many of the new EU states, where help is needed in coping with the numbers.

The High Commissioner also appealed to the ministers to do more to build the capacity of countries outside the EU to protect refugees and to work more energetically to find durable solutions for refugees. In addition to providing better protection in refugees' home regions, he said it is time for a European Union resettlement programme to be set up.