Reform of the EU Asylum System: An Opportunity to Regain Leadership in Refugee Protection
On World Refugee Day, the Red Cross EU Office calls on the EU and its Member States to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees both within, and on their way to the EU, are provided access to effective protection, in accordance with the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. Today more than ever, we appeal to the EU and its Member States to strive to remain the champions of refugee protection as they have been in the past, by reaffirming the absolute right to asylum, and implementing an effective protection system with high standards.
In 2015, the number of asylum applications submitted in EU Member States reached a record high: nearly 1.3 million, compared to 627,000 in 20141. In 2016, over 200,000 migrants, many coming from the world’s top 10 refugee-producing countries, have so far crossed the Mediterranean Basin in an attempt to find refuge in the EU2. In light of these developments, it is essential for the EU and its Member States to respond by upholding and strengthening the rights of refugees. It is now time for Europe to move from emergency measures, to sustainable, long-term solutions.
In order to address newly arrived asylum seekers and refugees’ immediate and longer-term needs, National Red Cross Societies in the EU have been scaling up their action since the beginning of this humanitarian crisis. In Germany and Sweden, for example, the Red Cross has reinforced its activities and programmes, by providing essential services such as: first aid and medical care, food and drink, clothes and blankets, hygiene items, accommodation, family tracing, legal counsel and psychosocial support, as well as language teaching and integration assistance. Fostering inclusion, solidarity and supporting host communities remains critical now and in the long-term.
National Red Cross Societies in the EU are committed to continuing their assistance to all vulnerable migrants, including asylum seekers and refugees. However, it is essential for the EU to address the ongoing humanitarian challenges with structural changes and durable solutions that comply with international, EU, and human rights legal standards and obligations. The EU and its Member States have a responsibility to defend the institution of asylum, and to ensure that EU policies and procedures lessen, rather than exacerbate, the vulnerabilities of all migrants.
The ongoing reform of the Common European Asylum System and the Dublin Regulation, must be seized as an opportunity to reaffirm and strengthen previous advancements, such as individualised assessment schemes, well organised reception processes, and efficient appeal procedures. These cannot be jeopardised under any circumstances. We urge the EU to develop an effective and humane solidarity mechanism which respects the inherent fundamental rights of all asylum seekers. We count on the EU to swiftly move forward with such a solution, and support progress in asylum policies and procedures that uphold the dignity and rights of those seeking protection.
Based on the extensive experience of National Red Cross Societies in the EU in the field of migration and asylum, the implementation of more safe, legal migration pathways is clearly needed, in order to decrease the vulnerabilities of asylum seekers and refugees. "In recent months, thousands have died attempting the journey to reach the EU. Safe and legal routes for those fleeing conflict, violence and persecution must be employed as a matter of urgency. Otherwise people will continue to die,” says Denis Haveaux, Director of the Red Cross EU Office.
We call on the EU to reaffirm its commitment to refugee protection by implementing a response to the current situation that respects refugee rights, and enables the realisation of the promise and potential of refugees, celebrated today, on World Refugee Day. The relatively large number of arrivals should not be an excuse for the EU and its Member States to compromise the commendable improvements previously made in asylum law and policy. The lives of thousands of refugees, along with our shared humanity, are at stake.
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The first findings of the Smart Practices that Enhance the Resilience of Migrants Report commissioned by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) reveal that migrants’ resilience to potential risks and shocks is a key factor in shaping their life outcomes. Read more.
Access the study's Summary Report.
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