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Top UN refugee official issues warning on EU moves on asylum

Top UN refugee official issues warning on EU moves on asylum

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers
On the eve of a meeting between European Union (EU) ministers about harmonizing their asylum laws, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned today that two draft EU directives on asylum could force genuine refugees back to their home countries and therefore possible persecution.

Ruud Lubbers issued his warning in a statement, saying the number of asylum-seekers entering the EU is falling and “there is no need to focus so single-mindedly on reducing standards and trying to deter or deny protection to as many people as possible.”

Mr. Lubbers is alarmed by the draft qualification directive, which defines who is a refugee and qualifies for protection, and the draft asylum procedures directive, which determines how that decision is reached in individual cases.

He said that if the draft directives become law, they could have a knock-on effect around the world, with other countries becoming willing to water down their protection of refugees.

The High Commissioner said many existing EU members seemed to want to force their most controversial measures on to the 10 States that will join the EU on 1 May.

“In some cases, these practices [outlined in the draft directives] have not even been passed into their own national legislation, or are under domestic legal challenge, yet they are pushing them at the EU level,” he said.

Mr. Lubbers said the net effect of the proposed measures would be that many genuine refugees were more likely to be forced back to their homelands, where they faced the risk of persecution.