calls for the UK to continue to show leadership
UN refugee agency has condemned proposals to withdraw from the 1951
Refugee Convention and replace the right to seek asylum with a 'quota'
Anne Dawson-Shepherd, UNHCR's Representative to the United Kingdom,
said that any move by the UK to abandon its legal and moral obligations
would be completely counter-productive and could trigger chaos in
the international asylum system. "It would send the wrong signal
to other countries which look after the majority of the world's
refugees and may create a domino effect with other countries pulling
out too. Now is the time for the UK to show leadership and support
asylum systems elsewhere," declared Dawson-Shepherd.
Asylum must be separated from migration and migration quotas. Asylum
is for individuals fleeing persecution and they should not be subjected
to quota regimes.
"In addition, the number of asylum seekers in industrialized
countries has been falling sharply and is back down to the level
of 17 years ago," explained Dawson-Shepherd. "The number
of asylum claims in the UK is down by 41% from only two years ago:
asylum claims are being processed more quickly than they have been
for more than a decade. Asylum claims have fallen across Europe
by 20% and the ten new EU member states have taken on more responsibility,
processing 16% more of the EU's total applications."
Expressing the agency's concern, Dawson-Shepherd continued: "All
these improvements and yet the debate on asylum is still raging
as if the country was faced with an immense and uncontrollable influx.
It is not."
No state has ever withdrawn from the 1951 Refugee Convention. Australia
has not withdrawn from the Convention and continues to process arrivals.
The Convention currently has 145 signatories, and work continues
to add more, so that the world's refugee problem is dealt with on
the same basis across the entire planet. The 1951 Refugee Convention
is an enduring international instrument that has helped save countless
lives and permits most refugees to find sanctuary close to their
"It does not prevent governments from improving their domestic
asylum systems," said Dawson-Shepherd. "It does not prevent
governments from sending home failed asylum seekers. These are management
issues, not issues related to the Convention."