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You are in:Public Information - UK : Media: Press Releases: 19th January 2005

25 January 2005

UNHCR calls for the UK to continue to show leadership

The UN refugee agency has condemned proposals to withdraw from the 1951 Refugee Convention and replace the right to seek asylum with a 'quota' for refugees.
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No state has ever withdrawn from the 1951 Refugee Convention. Australia has not withdrawn from the Convention and continues to process arrivals.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 homelands.
"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."

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