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17 July, 2024
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Europe urged to preserve access to protection on World Refugee Day

Caritas Europa calls for improved asylum system and safe pathways for refugees

On this World Refugee Day, Caritas Europa is calling for Europe to prioritize access to protection within its territory and overhaul its asylum system to prioritize the rights of individuals. The humanitarian organization emphasizes the need for safe and regular pathways to protection, dignified reception conditions, and successful integration into host societies.

According to recent reports, a staggering 110 million people were forcibly displaced globally in 2022 due to factors such as war, violence, conflict, and natural disasters. Among them are those who fled the war in Ukraine, the political and humanitarian crises in Venezuela, and attacks by armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Within the EU, Syrians and Afghans remain the top two nationalities seeking asylum.

For many refugees, leaving everything behind and embarking on perilous journeys is not a choice but the only option for a secure future. The theme chosen by the United Nations for this year's World Refugee Day, "Hope away from home," reflects the inherent challenges faced by displaced individuals.

Tragically, the recent capsizing and sinking of an overcrowded fishing boat off the coast of Greece serves as a somber reminder of the risks refugees undertake. The absence of safe and regular pathways to protection contributed to the loss of at least 79 lives, with potentially hundreds more still missing. In 2023 alone, over 1,000 individuals have already perished in the Mediterranean Sea. Urgent action is needed to establish secure routes, such as resettlement and humanitarian visas, to prevent further loss of life and eliminate the prevalent pushbacks and violence experienced by refugees during their journeys.

Caritas Europa is calling on European governments to safeguard access to their territories and uphold the right to asylum. Concerningly, the ongoing reform of the EU's asylum system seems poised to impede such access, confining vulnerable individuals in border countries while their claims are processed and enforcing swift returns. These policies may lead to widespread detention and overcrowded camps, reminiscent of the undignified reception conditions witnessed in places like Moria on the Greek islands.

In accordance with international refugee law, European governments must fulfill their responsibilities by implementing efficient asylum procedures and ensuring dignified reception conditions. Moreover, they must commit to offering an ambitious number of resettlement places, which serve as vital tools for saving lives and providing long-term protection. It is crucial that these commitments are then effectively put into practice.

The plea to European leaders is clear: preserve access to asylum and establish safe pathways for individuals in need of protection. Too many lives have already been lost. A robust asylum and reception system must deliver adequate protection and support, while investments in welcoming societies are key to fostering "hope away from home" and enabling refugees to thrive in their new environments.

Maria Nyman, Secretary General of Caritas Europa, emphasizes that reaching a country where asylum can be sought is merely the initial step in a long journey towards full participation and contribution to the host country's society. Building on positive practices, such as the activation of the Temporary Protection Directive for Ukrainian refugees, should serve as an example of strong political will to welcome individuals within the EU. Now is the time to further these acts of solidarity, ensuring not only a dignified welcome but also appropriate protection and access to basic rights and services for all those in need, irrespective of their country of origin.

[Information sourced from Press release]

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