World Refugee Day
Enabling a Europe that really protects

Brussels, 20 June 2019 – On World Refugee Day, the Red Cross EU Office calls on the EU and its Member States to renew their pledge to the 1951 Refugee Convention by reinforcing the pillars of a coordinated long-term approach to refugee protection. This approach should ensure that the principle of non-refoulement is a cornerstone of the system and guarantee access to dignified asylum procedures in Europe through adequate investments. 

 “The EU cannot continue to turn a blind eye to these tragedies”, says Denis Haveaux, Director of the Red Cross EU Office. “Political courage is needed to make greater use of tools like family reunification, resettlement, or humanitarian visas and thus reduce people’s reliance on the unscrupulous services of smugglers”, he stresses.  For those that manage to arrive in a spontaneous manner, setting foot on European soil does not guarantee their access to fair and effective asylum procedures. Across the EU, increasing numbers of asylum seekers are deprived of their liberty upon entry. We are deeply concerned to witness increasing recourse to immigration detention in the context of the EU asylum framework. This is reflected in recent legislative proposals that propose expanding the lawfulness of detention. “It is widely recognised that detention has lasting harmful effects on the mental and physical health of detainees and their families”, underlines Mr. Haveaux. Being in detention also limits access to fair asylum procedures, as people’s ability to benefit from adequate legal support is impeded. 

These challenges must be urgently addressed to make sure that the rights of every person in need of international protection are respected. We call on EU leaders to ensure sufficient resources are allocated to the development of a Common European Asylum System that guarantees access to protection to those in need. Funding an asylum policy that reinforces legal avenues and upholds the highest protection standards in all Member States should be a top priority. More needs to be done to address the structural weaknesses in national asylum systems. This would help to safeguard the dignity of asylum seekers and refugees across the EU.