Close sites icon close
Search form

Search for the country site.

Country profile

Country website

UNHCR calls for EU to ensure a new chapter for refugee protection

Press releases

UNHCR calls for EU to ensure a new chapter for refugee protection

12 January 2021
Portugal. Resettled refugees arrive in Lisbon
A Syrian refugee family arrives at Lisbon airport after being accepted for resettlement by Portugal, December 2018.

As a new year begins, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling on Portugal and Slovenia to harness their 2021 European Union (EU) Presidencies and negotiations on the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum and show leadership to better protect refugees in Europe and beyond.

UNHCR's 2021 EU Presidency Recommendations propose predictable and principled measures rooted in solidarity for a workable, rights-based and sustainable EU asylum system. They also stress the importance of revitalized political and financial support for countries and regions where most forcibly displaced people live, and the need to address root causes of forced displacement and irregular migration.

“In a fragile global environment, an EU that saves lives, protects refugees in Europe and globally, and finds solutions to end forced displacement and build resilient societies is needed more than ever,” said Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, UNHCR’s Representative for EU Affairs. “We hope that 2021 will be a new chapter for refugee protection, with the EU showing leadership in Europe and globally.”

UNHCR welcomes the direction of the proposed EU Pact, its comprehensive approach, and emphasis on solidarity and addressing root causes of forced displacement. There is also an important commitment to enhance search and rescue and ensure predictable disembarkation, which UNHCR hopes to see swiftly adopted.

“As negotiations on the EU Pact continue, we trust that EU Member States will seize the opportunity to lead by example and better protect people seeking asylum in Europe,” said Vargas Llosa. “The 2021 EU Presidencies have a pivotal role to facilitate discussions that pave the way to a common and workable EU asylum system that protects people fleeing war and persecution.”

UNHCR encourages the Presidencies to explore avenues for progress on key issues such as solidarity and border procedures. UNHCR supports fair and fast asylum procedures to quickly determine who needs international protection. Dignified returns for people wishing to go back to their countries of origin or who are found not in need of international protection are equally crucial for a workable and well-managed system. A truly common and effective EU asylum system also requires a predictable solidarity mechanism with states receiving a disproportionate number of asylum claims.

The EU can reinforce its role as global leader in the field of asylum by ensuring refugees’ rights are always upheld. UNHCR remains however deeply concerned about credible and repeated allegations of push-backs and encourages the Presidencies to prioritize the development of Independent National Monitoring Mechanisms, as proposed in the EU Pact, with a view to ending such practices.

With 85 per cent of the world’s refugees in developing countries, UNHCR is also calling on the EU Presidencies to ensure predictable and flexible financial aid (both development and humanitarian) and overall support to hosting states, including to strengthen their asylum systems. Fewer people might undertake dangerous journeys if EU countries demonstrated greater commitment to solidarity through resettlement, complementary pathways and family reunification. In this regard, UNHCR welcomes the renewed Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion, 2021-27, which followed extensive public consultations with civil society and refugees across Europe.

UNHCR remains ready to support the EU Presidencies and Member States to enhance solidarity with refugees and the countries hosting them inside the EU and globally.


 For more information, please contact: