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News Comment by UNHCR EU Representative on launch of Slovenian Presidency of the European Union

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The Al-Masri family from Damascus in Syria, who were among the first group of asylum seekers relocated to Slovenia from Greece.  © UNHCR/Spela Majcen

Brussels –  As Slovenia takes the helm of the Presidency of the European Union (EU) on 1 July, it has an important opportunity to lead and seize the moment to better protect refugees both in Europe and globally. Building on the progress made under its predecessor Portugal, including advancing work to establish a European Union Asylum Agency, we at UNHCR are hopeful that the incoming Slovenian EU Presidency will continue to build bridges and explore avenues to broker agreement on the proposed EU Pact on Migration and Asylum.

This is of vital importance to break years of deadlock on EU asylum matters and finally put in place a truly common and sustainable system. A humane one that swiftly provides protection to refugees – people fleeing horrific war, violence and persecution. And a fair one that also works for all countries across the EU equally as they share responsibility for refugees, in the spirit of the Union and its values.

UNHCR supports the direction of the proposed EU Pact, including its much-needed commitment to enhance search and rescue to save lives at sea, and to ensure predictable disembarkation for those rescued. Crucially, it is clear on the need to uphold the right to seek and access asylum in the EU – there can be no compromise when it comes to guaranteeing this fundamental right.

There is no single solution to preventing and responding to forced displacement. It requires a comprehensive approach in Europe and beyond. But with a range of actors pulling together, in keeping with the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), sharing responsibility to effectively support refugees and host countries is possible.

We hope that the EU will continue on its good path in supporting the GCR, as it has done to date in many countries where refugees reside. With 86 per cent of refugees in developing countries, not in Europe, continued and increased EU financial (humanitarian and development) and political support is essential for regions and countries outside the EU hosting large numbers of people forced to flee. In addition, predictable, flexible and unearmarked EU funding would enable UNHCR to respond faster to the many ongoing crises and emergency situations around the world and save more lives. Increased resettlement of refugees from outside Europe and other legal pathways will also provide safe ways for refugees to come to Europe and avoid them going through dangerous routes.

With numbers of new arrivals to Europe manageable, the EU can well afford to play its part in better protecting refugees. This starts with leading by example on its own soil and never wavering when it comes to upholding the 1951 Refugee Convention to which all EU Member States are signatories – a life-saving tool that is as relevant today as it was 70 years ago when it granted safety and protection to Europeans in need.

For further information:

  • Please read UNHCR’s 2021 EU Presidency Recommendations are available here
  • Or please contact:
    • Maeve Patterson (UNHCR Representation for EU Affairs) [email protected], +32 470 995 435
    • Zoran Stevanovic (UNHCR Regional Office Central Europe, Budapest), [email protected], +31305309633

 


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