Top UN refugee official welcomes Greece’s plans for asylum reform

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres (left) and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou brief press in Athens.

20 January 2010 – The top United Nations refugee official today welcomed broad measures announced by the Greek Government to create a modern and effective migration and asylum system that fully respects human rights.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres also pledged the full support of his agency (UNHCR) for the reforms, saying they constitute part of a comprehensive approach to asylum, migration and integration “which will make the system fully compatible with international law and the Greek tradition of hospitality.”

During their meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou had pledged his commitment to tackling the situation given that Greece is a key entry point into the European Union (EU) for refugees and irregular migrants.

He added that he intends to bring the country’s asylum system into conformity with the 1951 Refugee Convention and EU law.

Mr. Guterres called the tasks facing Greece in the area of migration and asylum “exciting in their nature” and “humbling in their scope and complexity,” according to a news release.

Until the asylum reforms are carried out, UNCHR said it will continue to recommend that other European States not send asylum-seekers back to Greece – as the first point of entry into Europe – under EU or other regulations.

Mr. Guterres voiced his support for proposals for a system for reception and screening of new arrivals, with the referral of asylum-seekers to a fair and efficient asylum procedure managed by an independent asylum authority.

He stressed the need to quickly identify refugees and others in need of international protection, while noting that States have the right to send people who are not in need of protection back to their countries of origin. But such re-admission remains a “huge challenge,” he said.

In addition, he called for special measures to protect unaccompanied children, both asylum-seekers and migrants.


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