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European states urged to commit to quality in asylum procedures

News Stories, 21 September 2011

© UNHCR/B.Szandelszky
Young asylum-seekers play in front of a reception and integration centre in Bulgaria.

BRUSSELS, Belgium, September 21 (UNHCR) Officials from the UN refugee agency and the European Union (EU) have strongly urged European countries to give priority to the quality of their asylum procedures.

"Looking forward, quality has become the key word," the EU's Robert Visser told delegates at a conference convened last week by UNHCR in Brussels. The gathering, which included participants from 22 EU countries, marked the end of an ambitious UNHCR-run and EU-funded project to ensure that the quality of asylum procedures remains high on the agenda for building the Common European Asylum Policy.

"We are grateful that UNHCR has had the courage to tackle this important issue," added Visser, executive director of the Malta-based European Asylum Support Office, which was set up recently to facilitate practical cooperation among European Union states on asylum.

The refugee agency has been helping EU countries to build quality assurance mechanisms into their asylum procedures in recent years. The just completed "Further Developing EU Asylum Quality" project, launched 18 months ago, was conducted in nine member states Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia.

Several conference participants said the project the second of its kind had contributed significantly to improvements in quality by observing asylum systems in practice, identifying shortcomings and suggesting practical solutions.

Delegates also stressed the importance of continuing with capacity building, training and further development of asylum procedures to ensure that the highest quality standards are implemented and used.

"Training and motivation are the crucial pillars for building a sustainable house of quality," stressed Michael Grieseback, vice-president of Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, in the conference opening speech. He added that government officials responsible for asylum decision-making need to have a "quality consciousness."

The tools developed under UNHCR's quality development project will also be of broad use. These include checklists for conducting interviews, a 100-page manual on how to ensure quality at each step of the asylum procedure, quality audit mechanisms, peer-training for decision-makers, codes of conduct for interpreters and many more measures with a sustainable effect.

Moreover, improved quality of asylum procedures can lead to reduced costs and increased efficiency. Interviews that are more targeted can be shorter, well-trained decision-makers can take decisions faster and, over time, the number of appeals and decisions overturned decreases.

"Asylum quality can mean the difference between life and death for people who seek protection in Europe. If you are wrongly sent back, you may face persecution or serious human rights violations," said Madeline Garlick, head of the Policy and Legal Support Unit in UNHCR's Europe Bureau. This was why UNHCR had "poured extensive energy and expertise into a hands-on project that has brought about enormous transformations," she added.

Garlick also noted that UNHCR and EU member states had worked closely together to develop methods for monitoring, analysing and fixing problems in asylum processes.

"This conference has shown that it is now widely accepted that mechanisms for maintaining and enhancing quality of asylum decisions are vital for strong and credible asylum systems. It is clear that quality is now firmly on the EU agenda."

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EU Asylum Law and Policy

EU law and practice affects creation of refugee protection mechanisms in other countries.

Asylum-Seekers

UNHCR advocates fair and efficient procedures for asylum-seekers

Asylum and Migration

Asylum and Migration

All in the same boat: The challenges of mixed migration around the world.

UNHCR's Recommendations to Poland for its EU Presidency

July-December 2011. Also available in Spanish on Refworld.

Statistics

Trends on asylum and protection in EU Member States.

EU Instruments

UNHCR's regularly comments on key EU Regulations and Directives relating to asylum.

UNHCR Projects

UNHCR has numerous projects with EU Member States to improve the quality of asylum.

Judicial Engagement

UNHCR expertise helps courts interpret legislation in accordance with international asylum law.

Resettlement

The significance of resettlement as a durable solution is increasing in the EU.

Integration (refugee rights) and Family Reunification

Integration is a two-way process requiring efforts by the host societies as well as the refugees.

Border Cooperation

UNHCR is lobbying for protection-sensitive border management.

Asylum Practice

UNHCR is monitoring asylum practice and whether it is consistent with the 1951 Convention.

Practical cooperation

UNHCR is promoting and supporting cooperation with EU Member States and EASO.

Working with the European Union

EU law and practice affects creation of refugee protection mechanisms in other countries.

Groups of Concern

UNHCR expects Member States to pay particular attention to asylum seekers and refugees with specific needs.

Statelessness in Europe

UNHCR engages with EU Member States to identify and resolve the problems of stateless persons.

UNHCR Central Mediterranean Sea Initiative (CMSI)

EU solidarity for rescue-at-sea and protection of Asylum Seekers and Migrants.

Related Internet Links

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