The Refugee Council today expressed its grave concern over the minimum standards for refugee protection agreed by all European Union member states. A report released today by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) assessing the progress made towards harmonising asylum policy across Europe heavily criticises the agreements, warning that they risk refugees being returned to face torture or persecution.
Many of the measures agreed have been at the behest of the UK government, which has been instrumental in pushing standards as low as possible. For instance, Section 55, the controversial piece of UK legislation that denies asylum seekers support if they do not apply immediately upon arrival, has been incorporated into the directive on reception conditions. This therefore allows all EU member states to introduce this practice, even though on several occasions it has been found by UK courts to breach human rights law.
Other provisions promoted by the UK allow all EU governments to return asylum seekers to their countries of origin before their appeal is heard, potentially to face torture or death. It will also be possible for states to send asylum seekers to countries with which they have no meaningful ties, shifting the responsibility for their protection on to poorer countries.
Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
“Five years ago the European Union agreed to create a common asylum policy across Europe with the aim of improving protection for people fleeing persecution. However since then, protection for refugees has come a poor second to an agenda bent on making the EU an even tougher place in which to seek asylum.
“Common standards have now been agreed that are likely to breach international law and may endanger refugees’ lives.
“This is World Refugee Day. Across the world, instability, conflict and human rights abuses are forcing people to flee their homes. Only a small proportion find their way to the EU – it is vital that the EU provides a safe place for, and upholds the rights of, those that do.”
Notes to editors & links
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2. Please contact Hannah Ward on 020 7840 4404 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the report.
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