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Reform the asylum system, EU urged

17 January 2020

UN calls for 2020 to be year of robust refugee protection


Syrian refugee children are seen after disembarking from a Cyprus coastguard boat off the south-east of the island, on Tuesday

Syrian refugee children are seen after disembarking from a Cyprus coastguard boat off the south-east of the island, on Tuesday

THE United Nations has urged the European Union to make 2020 “the year of change for robust refugee protection” through asylum reform, investment, and political leverage.

The regional representative of its refugee agency, UNHCR, Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, said: “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.”

He was speaking after the agency last week issued new recommendations to the EU Council, which this year is being led by Croatia and Germany.

The first of two central recommendations is to reform the asylum system: specifically, to encourage shared responsibility and “solidarity” within the EU; ensure access to territory and fair and fast procedures; support integration and efficient and rights-based return systems; invest in resettlement and complementary pathways; and address statelessness.

This includes prioritising and facilitating family reunions. It also includes establishing procedures “to quickly determine who needs international protection and who does not”; grant this status to eligible people and provide integration support quickly; and protect and help people who are not eligible to return to their home countries.

The second main recommendation is that the EU provide “more development and peacebuilding support” to the countries where most refugees live and originate. This would involve providing dedicated additional funding for the hosting communities and countries (neighbouring and developing countries host 85 per cent of the world’s refugees), and, using the EU’s “political leverage”, to promote the inclusion of refugees.

EU member-states receive a disproportionate number of asylum claims, and therefore require a “common and workable” asylum system, the paper states.

The 2010s had been a decade of displacement, Mr Llosa concluded: therefore, the solutions must be offered in 2020. “By supporting large refugee-hosting countries outside Europe, the EU can help refugees thrive, not just survive.”

Separately, the UNHCR has launched a funding appeal for Sudan. It seeks £367 million to help more than 900,000 refugees living in the country and 500,000 people who are hosting Sudanese refugees.

Most of the refugees hosted in Sudan are South Sudanese — 840,000 since 2013 — and more refugees are arriving, having fled persecution and violence, including from nine other countries. In Darfur, refugees from the Central African Republic have increased from 5000 to nearly 17,000 in three months since last September.

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