UNHCR chief urges Europe to do more for Syrian asylum-seekers

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-7-19 10:12:10

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres on Thursday urged European countries to do more for Syrian asylum-seekers to share the burden of Syria's neighboring countries.

Guterres noted that two countries, Germany and Sweden, had received nearly two-thirds of the Syrians seeking protection in the entire European Union and the number of Syrian asylum claims in EU countries remains manageable.

That number is slightly more than 40,000 since the beginning of the crisis in March 2011, according to the UN Refugee Agency. This compares to Syria's neighbours, who are providing shelter to almost 1.8 million registered Syrian refugees.

Guterres told a meeting of the EU's Justice and Home Affairs Council in Vilnius, Lithuania that this was "the first real test" to show that the Common European Asylum System can function as it should, while citing flaws and inconsistencies in asylum policy across Europe.

He said recognition rates varied greatly across the EU; too many states fail to provide swift and fair access to asylum procedures for Syrians; and the treatment of Syrian asylum-seekers needs to be improved in several member states.

He highlighted the case of Turkey, which has received more than ten times as many Syrians as have claimed asylum in other countries in Europe.

Guterres urged the EU to ensure access to territory and swift and fair asylum procedures for those seeking protection, take a more consistent and generous approach to protection, and show more flexibility in the use of existing measures.

He also encouraged EU states to establish strict limits and safeguards on the use of detention, explore alternatives to detention and do more to improve the conditions for asylum seekers who are awaiting decisions on their protection claims.

"And finally, the EU must engage in more burden-sharing initiatives so as to help mitigate the crushing impact which the refugee crisis is having on Syria's immediate neighbours," he said.

Posted in: Mid-East

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