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Europe - Develop Comprehensive Strategy on Asylum

UN Refugee Chief Calls On Europe To Develop Comprehensive Strategy On Asylum

European Union (EU) countries can improve the management of refugee problems by focusing on reinforcing protection in the regions of origin, building greater capacity in transit countries and improving the quality of the EU’s own asylum systems, according to the head of the United Nations refugee agency.

“By reinforcing protection in regions of origin, and ensuring that refugees can find solutions there, we can reduce the pressure for onward movement,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers <"">told an informal meeting of European Interior Ministers over the weekend in Luxembourg.

He said that for this to happen, there needed to be more resources and closer coordination between interior, foreign and development ministries as well as with the European Commission.

Although refugee numbers worldwide are going down – currently just under 10 million, or about half what they were a decade ago – there are still too many long-lasting refugee problems, he noted.

He <"
">cited the case of Afghanistan – the largest group of asylum seekers arriving in Europe in 2001 – as an example of how a concerted effort in the region of origin can provide a clear dividend in terms of reduced flows to Europe. “There is certainly a link between the sharp decline in the number of Afghan asylum seekers in Europe and the massive return to Afghanistan,” he said.

Turning to the issue of transit countries, through which refugees and economic migrants pass through on their way to Europe, Mr. Lubbers suggested that improving asylum conditions there would also help reduce onward movement. “But this will take time,” he warned. “Therefore, I strongly counsel against any precipitous initiative to declare such countries ‘safe,’ in the absence of acceptable protection safeguards.”

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