Polish soldiers patrolling along the Polish-Belarusian border near Czeremcha, north-eastern Poland | Photo: ARCHIVE EPA/Marcin Obara
Polish soldiers patrolling along the Polish-Belarusian border near Czeremcha, north-eastern Poland | Photo: ARCHIVE EPA/Marcin Obara

The UN refugee agency UNHCR has sent a document of recommendations for the French and Czech 2022 presidencies of the Council of the European Union, asking to prioritize the protection of refugees in Europe and in the world.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has issued a document of recommendations for the French and Czech presidencies of the EU Council in order to make the protection of refugees a priority in Europe and in the world. France has taken over the council presidency at the beginning of January and Czech Republic will assume the presidency in July.

According to a statement published on Monday, January 10, UNHCR called on the presidencies to promote sustainable asylum reform and to achieve progress on key issues such as intra-EU solidarity, adequate reception conditions as well as fair and fast asylum procedures.

Those who do not qualify for international protection must be guaranteed dignified returns to their countries of origin, the organization said.

In 2021 pushbacks at European borders

The UN agency stressed that, while many EU countries remain committed to European and international human rights and refugee laws and principles, violent pushbacks of asylum seekers at the EU's borders continued in 2021, which "endanger lives and undermine fundamental human rights, including the right to seek asylum."

Moreover, the increase of xenophobic political narratives, together with physical and legislative barriers to enter European territory, have continued to undermine the rights of people fleeing war and persecution, says UNHCR.

"The right to seek asylum is a fundamental human right. It must be preserved, especially in extraordinary situations or times of emergency", said Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, UNHCR's representative for EU affairs.

Strengthening global solidarity

UNHCR highlighted how the Pact on Migration and Asylum proposed by the European Commission in September 2020 continues to represent an opportunity to move from an ad hoc crisis-driven approach to asylum and migration in the EU to a common one that is more comprehensive, well managed and predictable, according to the statement.

The organization said that progress on ending pushbacks was urgently needed and called for the establishment of independent monitoring mechanisms to investigate them. It also recommended measures to boost search and rescue and making disembarkation of those rescued at sea more predictable.

With almost 90% of refugees living in low and middle-income countries, UNHCR encouraged presidencies to strengthen global solidarity by providing greater support to the countries and regions where most forcibly displaced people are.

 

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