Refugee protection must be the focus for the future of European asylum policy, says Refugee Council - Refugee Council
November 4, 2004

Refugee protection must be the focus for the future of European asylum policy, says Refugee Council

As the leaders of all 25 EU member countries agree a plan for European asylum policy for the next five years, the Refugee Council urges the EU to return refugee protection to the core of the agenda.

Five years ago at Tampere, at a similar meeting looking at the direction of asylum policy, EU leaders committed themselves to working together to establish decent minimum standards on asylum across Europe to ensure that people in need of sanctuary would be treated fairly wherever they applied in Europe. However, the standards that have been agreed have been driven so low that they risk undermining refugee protection across the EU.

The plan of action being agreed on Friday is a chance to refocus on the purpose of a common European asylum policy and to learn the lessons of the first stage of harmonisation. It is essential that the EU remain committed to the core aims of providing a safe haven for refugees fleeing persecution and that there is a fair system for supporting refugees and asylum seekers across Europe.

Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:

“There are clear advantages to creating a common EU asylum policy – not least because it should ensure that refugees are treated equitably across Europe, wherever they claim asylum. What is absolutely vital therefore is the need to ensure that this treatment is of the highest standard. At the moment, it looks like the prospect of ‘Fortress Europe’ is becoming a reality.

“We urge the UK government to use its considerable influence to restore refugee protection to the heart of Europe’s asylum agenda, and to ensure that the responsibility for refugee protection is shared by the international community, rather than shifted outside of the EU and on to the world’s poorest countries.”

Ends

Notes to editors

The EU summit is taking place this Thursday 4th and Friday 5th November, with the Hague Multi-Annual Programme – which outlines asylum policy for the EU for the next five years – to be discussed and agreed on the 5th. Further information can be found at http://www.eu2004.nl/default.asp?CMS_ITEM=B69477428EFE4940B0A97C707EA9F70FX1X58602X6