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European Union: Asylum - Amnesty International backs UNHCR criticism of EU asylum proposals

Amongst key asylum measures to be discussed by EU interior and home affairs ministers in Brussels this Thursday are 'safe countries,' border procedures and the right to remain during an appeal.

Amnesty International has serious concerns over plans under a new EU Asylum Procedures Directive on each of these. For instance, the directive may severely restrict in-country asylum appeals despite the fact that initial refusals of asylum applications are subject to a high rate of reversal in many EU countries – including in the UK, where around one in five rejected asylum applicants win their appeals.

Amnesty International EU Office Director Dick Oosting said:

'The proposed legislation aimed at harmonising asylum procedures across the EU, which will form the core of the EU's Common Asylum System, is seriously flawed in terms of human rights. Unless the Italian EU Presidency can restore a proper focus on refugee protection, the EU would be better off without this legislation.

'National governments appear to be competing with each other to see how far they can lower standards of refugee protection in Europe in response to populist pressures. As a result, the EU's Common Asylum System is being held hostage. The proposed legislation would break the EU's own commitments as set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, soon to be part of the new EU Constitution, as well as individual EU governments' responsibilities under international law.'

Amnesty International believes that by agreeing these proposals EU member states would be clearly signalling that it is acceptable to ignore international standards and shift the burden of refugee protection to other countries.

Dick Oosting added:

'There are so many exceptions and derogations within the current proposals on safe third countries, border procedures and the right to remain during an appeal, that the end result is not harmonisation, but a green light for all governments to lower standards of refugee protection even further.

'What sort of message is that for the EU to send to the rest of the world?'

Relevant information

EU: Asylum – 'Safe countries' list and other policy proposals risk discrimination and human rights abuse press release, 4 November 2003: /news_details.asp?NewsID=14943

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