Panafrican News Agency

UNHCR calls for 'year of change' in protecting refugees in Europe

Geneva, Switzerland (PANA) - The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is calling on the European Union (EU) to make 2020 “the year of change for robust refugee protection”.

On Thursday, the agency issued a set of new recommendations, as Croatia and Germany preside over the EU Council during the next 12 months, a UN statement said.

After years of shifting policies and heated debate, UNHCR said that the ambitious but achievable recommendations would provide a common and workable asylum system within the EU through sustainable reform and revitalised financial support for host countries.

“As we enter a new decade, and following the success of the Global Refugee Forum, the EU under its presidencies has the chance to make 2020 the year of change for robust refugee protection,” said Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, UNHCR’s Regional Representative.

Referring to the last decade as “one of displacement”, Mr. Llosa added that the new one needed to be “one of solutions, starting right now in 2020”.

“By supporting large refugee hosting countries outside Europe, the EU can also help refugees thrive and not just survive,” Mr. Llosa concluded, highlighting the strengths of the new Pact on Migration and Asylum. 

The UNHCR document highlights two overarching opportunities to show leadership while better protecting refugees in Europe and abroad, namely moving ahead with sustainable asylum reform; and providing more support for the countries taking in refugees. 

The agency proposal says that “fair and fast asylum procedures need to be established to quickly determine who needs international protection and who does not”. 

People eligible for protection should quickly be granted status and receive support for integration, and those not eligible for any form of protection should be helped to return, it adds. 

The statement said the UNHCR also recommends that, with EU Member States receiving a disproportionate number of asylum claims, there is a need to ensure a truly common and workable asylum system.

The agency encourages both countries, which will serve six months each in the presidency, to advance work on an effective solidarity mechanism, including through relocation arrangements, prioritising family unity.

With 85 percent of the world’s refugees hosted in neighbouring and developing countries, revitalised financial support is also needed, the statement said.

UNHCR called on the presidencies to ensure increased and diversified funding, including for development cooperation funding, to further support host countries and help forcibly displaced people rebuild their lives. 

-0- PANA MA 10Jan2020