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UN refugee agency urges European Union to protect asylum-seekers

UN refugee agency urges European Union to protect asylum-seekers

The United Nations refugee agency has called on Germany, which takes over the European Union (EU) presidency for six months beginning 1 January, to take early measures on key refugee protection issues.

“Political action and strong commitment are needed to ensure that people in need of international protection have effective access to EU territory and to fair and effective asylum procedures,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman William Spindler told a news briefing in Geneva today.

“In UNHCR’s view, a considerable amount of work is still necessary to ensure that refugees receive protection in a consistent manner across the European Union’s soon-to-be 27 member states. UNHCR welcomes the German Presidency's announcement that it intends to bring more attention to the situation of the EU’s external borders,” he said.

In a public document presented to the German Government this week, UNHCR made a series of recommendations on key, in particular, urging Germany to lead a wide-ranging discussion on the steps needed to complete the establishment of a Common European Asylum System by 2010.

Last month, the agency welcomed EU proposals that asylum protection must play a key part of any measures to control migration.

“UNHCR appreciates efforts to promote practical cooperation among the EU member states on asylum issues, and appeals for a renewed focus on the quality of asylum decision-making,” Mr. Spindler said.

“While welcoming Germany’s plans to promote the integration of foreigners in the European Union, UNHCR requests the Presidency to ensure that the particular needs of refugees are taken into account. UNHCR also supports efforts to establish an EU resettlement scheme for refugees,” he added.

“At present only a handful of European countries offer places for the resettlement of refugees who cannot remain in their first countries of asylum.”