Recommendations issued to protect asylum seekers and ensure universal compliance with 1951 Refugee Convention

Refugee Conference Alf Dubs 180621Alf DubsCOPENHAGEN/STRASBOURG, 18 June 2021 – Ahead of World Refugee Day, the UK Parliament hosted a web conference today marking the 70th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention and urging greater European solidarity and protection of refugees. The meeting culminated with a joint Call for Action on World Refugee Day 2021 by the Co-Chairs of the Conference, reiterating the relevance of the Refugee Convention in addressing current day humanitarian challenges and imploring states parties to abide by their obligations under the Convention.

“We cannot continue to let thousands of children, women and men perish each year trying to reach safety or in search of a better life,” reads the Call for Action. “We urge all member states of the Council of Europe and the OSCE to do their utmost to save lives at sea through enhanced search and rescue operations as well as greater solidarity and responsibility-sharing leading to concrete support for transit countries and countries at the frontline of irregular arrivals.”

Co-hosted by the Earl of Dundee, Vice-Chair of the PACE Sub-Committee on migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings, and by Lord Dubs, Vice-Chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on Migration, the conference focused on issues including the achievements and challenges of the 1951 Refugee Convention, migration management and voluntary relocations of refugees, and protecting lives of boat refugees.

Refugee Conference Earl Dundee 180621The Earl of DundeeParticipants discussed effective ways to protect refugees, including unaccompanied children and other vulnerable categories, and urged action to be taken against the criminalization of solidarity. There was a strong focus on promoting more safe and legal pathways for migration, greater responsibility-sharing for humanitarian emergencies, such as through voluntary relocations with a view towards ensuring that governments implement their humanitarian commitments, as well as greater focus on environmental refugees.

Speaking at the web conference were Gillian Triggs, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Assistant High Commissioner for Protection; Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International; Sophie Weidenhiller, Spokesperson of Sea Eye e.V.; Beate Gminder, Deputy Director-General in charge of the Task Force Migration Management, DG Migration and Home Affairs, EU Commission; Manos Logothetis, General Secretary of Reception of Asylum Seekers, Ministry of Migration and Asylum of Greece; and Ambassador Drahoslav Štefánek, Special Representative on Migration and Refugees of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

The Earl of Kinnoull, Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees, Chair of the EU Select Committee, House of Lords; James Cleverly MP, Minister for Middle East and North Africa, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom, also addressed the meeting.

Refugee Conference Jean Baptiste Nourian 180621Gillian TriggsIn the document agreed to at the end of the conference, the Co-Chairs stressed the ongoing relevance of the commitments found in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and urged that on World Refugee Day, all states parties reiterate their commitment to the Convention. The Call for Action questions whether the principle of first safe country of arrival, on which asylum systems are based, and which has resulted in the overburdening of frontline countries, is appropriate within the context of current migration patterns and whether it is in keeping with the spirit of the 1951 Convention.

The Chair of the OSCE PA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Migration, Swedish parliamentarian Margareta Cederfelt, welcomed the adoption of the Call for Action. “There needs to be a better system to protect those seeking asylum in Europe and the wider OSCE area through improved asylum procedures,” Cederfelt said. “The Call for Action adopted by the Co-Chairs of today’s web conference provides important guidelines to ensure that those fleeing conflict can rebuild their lives either in their new host country or back home, having returned in a safe and dignified manner, in full respect of the principle of non-refoulement.”

Toward this end, the Co-Chairs strongly encouraged the relevant PACE and OSCE PA migration committees to work towards the implementation of recommendations and called upon governments to co-operate in sharing responsibility for the protection of refugees and asylum seekers, to move towards agreed standards and practices and engage in concerted action, in close partnership with other relevant international and regional actors including UNHCR and IOM as well as civil society and refugees and asylum seekers themselves.

To read the full Call for Action on World Refugee Day 2021, please click here.



Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

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