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EU Must Ensure Rights Of Refugees, Asylum-Seekers

European Union must ensure rights of refugees and asylum-seekers, says UN

8 July 2008 - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is calling on the European Union (EU) to safeguard the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers, as senior officials from the 27-member bloc debate a proposed pact on immigration issues.

UNHCR is closely following discussions concerning the draft European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, presented yesterday by the French EU Presidency at an informal meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in Cannes, France.

Spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis said the agency hoped the document, which focuses mainly on managing legal migration and controlling irregular migration, will support the creation of a 'Europe of Asylum' - one of the pact's stated aims.

"We consider there is a need to develop practical and reliable ways to safeguard the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees in the context of migration management and border control," she told reporters in Geneva.

"A 'Europe of Asylum' cannot be built without assurances of access to the European Union for persons seeking protection," she added.

The draft agreement also addresses differences in asylum decision-making across the EU, an issue which has regularly been highlighted by UNHCR.

"We urge the EU, under the French Presidency, to take up the challenge of improving the quality of asylum decision-making across the EU," Ms. Pagonis said.

UNHCR felt that strengthening cooperation among Member States and creating a European Asylum Support Office are positive proposals, and expressed its readiness to help the EU meet these goals.

In addition, while welcoming the document's reference to refugee resettlement, the agency wished to see further steps taken to increase the participation of EU Member States in worldwide refugee resettlement efforts.

At present, a small number of the 27 Member States have regular resettlement programmes, and the EU provides only around five per cent of places available worldwide for refugee resettlement, UNHCR noted.

ENDS

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