UN says many asylum seekers denied protection in EU

UN refugee agency urged the European Union and its member states to ensure that tighter border controls do not shut out asylum seekers fleeing violence or persecution.

UN says many asylum seekers denied protection in EU

The U.N. refugee agency urged the European Union and its member states on Friday to ensure that tighter border controls do not shut out asylum seekers fleeing violence or persecution.

Fewer migrants and potential asylum seekers are reaching Europe via the central Mediterranean due to sea patrols and so-called "push-backs", led by Italy, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

There has been a shift, with more people arriving over land via Turkey to Greece, where agents from the EU border agency FRONTEX have been deployed to slow the human flow, it said.

"Our concern is that in its effort to stem illegal migration, Europe should not forget that among those seeking to enter the EU are people who need international protection and are at risk of their lives," UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic told a news briefing.

Many are fleeing invasion or abuse in Afghanistan, Iraq, he said. Prior to the push-backs, it was mainly Africans, from Sudan to Eritrea and Somalia who were reaching Europe.

"Resurgent racism, xenophobia"

Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a speech this week that many asylum seekers are denied protection. "At the root of some of the restrictive provisions and interpretations of laws, policies and practices giving rise to protection gaps, is a resurgent racism and xenophobia."

Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta all recorded sharp drops in arrivals by sea over the past year, according to UNHCR. An estimated 8,800 people arrived by sea in those four countries through October, against 32,000 in the same period last year.

Italy, long a primary entry point for Africans seeking entry in Europe, last year agreed with Libya to halt the flow of migrants towards its shores.

"The stemming of sea arrivals is not solving the problem but is shifting it elsewhere," Mahecic said.

There has been a corresponding sharp rise in arrivals by land in the Evros region of Greece, with 38,992 people arriving through October compared to 7,574 in the same period last year.

But an asylum seeker in Greece has a "negligible chance" of having his or her claim to refugee status properly assessed, Mahecic said. Fewer than 1 percent of asylum applicants in the country are granted refugee status or other protection.

"Border control policies that indiscriminately block arrivals encourage those seeking asylum to resort to ever riskier and more desperate routes to safety -- a reason why growing numbers of asylum seekers today find themselves in the hands of people-smuggling rings," the UNHCR spokesman said.

Migration routes have changed due to the sea patrols, said Jemini Pandya of the International Organisation for Migration.

The two most heavily used migration routes are now through mainland Turkey to Greece or via Egypt to Israel, she said.



Agencies

Last Mod: 10 Aralık 2010, 18:01
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