EUROPEAN UNION DECISION TO LIMIT ITS CITIZENS' ACCESS TO ASYLUM IS INCONSISTENT WITH REFUGEE CONVENTION, UNHCR STATES

REF/1158
20 June 1997

EUROPEAN UNION DECISION TO LIMIT ITS CITIZENS' ACCESS TO ASYLUM IS INCONSISTENT WITH REFUGEE CONVENTION, UNHCR STATES

20 June 1997


Press Release
REF/1158


EUROPEAN UNION DECISION TO LIMIT ITS CITIZENS' ACCESS TO ASYLUM IS INCONSISTENT WITH REFUGEE CONVENTION, UNHCR STATES

19970620 GENEVA, 20 June (UNHCR) -- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees expressed serious concern today about the European Union's decision to restrict access to asylum by its citizens.

A Protocol to the European Community Treaty, adopted on Tuesday by the Union's 15 member States during their Summit in Amsterdam, places a limitation on asylum by allowing the States in the Union to use their discretion when accepting asylum applications from citizens of the Union. The UNHCR said that such a decision goes against an important element of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which guarantees unqualified access to asylum.

"We are very concerned at the European Union decision", UNHCR's spokesperson said. "If the European Union applies limitations to the Convention others can follow, and could weaken the universality of the instrument for the international protection of refugees. We do not, therefore, share the position taken in the preamble stating that the Protocol respects the Convention."

The UNHCR is mandated to promote universal and unconditional application of the Convention on refugees. While recognizing the high standards of human rights achieved in member countries of the European Union, as well as the legitimate preoccupation of States that asylum procedures should not be abused -- especially by presumed terrorists -- the UNHCR maintains that those issues can be addressed through the proper application of the Convention or through national legislation.

The UNHCR has expressed concern to the States in the European Union that the introduction of geographical restrictions to asylum is not fully consistent with the international responsibilities assumed by States which ratified the Convention. It welcomes the declaration made by at least one State of its intention to receive and consider all asylum applications, irrespective of their country of origin.

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