[Stop-traffic] News/Europe: Shrinking right to asylum in Europe, report says

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/Europe: Shrinking right to asylum in Europe, report says
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Tue Aug 08 2000 - 10:01:48 EDT

                 Shrinking right to asylum in Europe, report says

RTna 7/7/00 4:47 PM

  Reuters Ltd.

     By Stephanie Nebehay
      GENEVA (Reuters) - Most refugees seeking asylum in Western Europe are
forced to do so by clandestine means, often smuggled across borders by
criminals, an independent report said Friday.
      Commissioned by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the
report accused European governments of requiring visas and deploying
"airline liaison officers" to frustrate asylum-seekers from setting foot on
European soil.
      "The Trafficking and Smuggling of Refugees: the End Game in European
Asylum Policy?," by independent British expert John Morrison, called for
protecting what it said was a fundamental right to asylum in Europe for
migrants genuinely fleeing persecution.
      The Geneva-based UNHCR itself has not yet taken a position on the
report, issued less than three weeks after 58 Chinese illegal immigrants
were found suffocated in the English ferry port of Dover.
      "The problem is the right to asylum in Europe is no longer in effect
being offered because there is no legal way of getting here," Morrison told
a news conference in Geneva.
      "And if you must use illegal means, that is becoming ever more
dangerous and difficult to do. So refugees are being forced into the arms
of these organized (crime) syndicates," he said.

      The human trafficking and smuggling business has been estimated to be
worth between $5-7 billion annually to gangster syndicates, with Eastern
European and CIS states representing key transit areas, according to the
      Publication of the report coincides with a heated EU debate on asylum
and over a 1951 refugee convention recognizing the need for people fleeing
persecution to resort to fake papers.
      "If it is no longer possible as a refugee to gain access to an
airplane with a forged passport, then your option might be being locked in
the back of a lorry, as the Chinese were," Morrison said.
      "Those options are often much more dangerous for the refugees and more
expensive in terms of the traffickers or smugglers you might need to pay,"
he said.
      "Hundreds (of people) have died since the late 80s trying to enter the
EU. Some estimates place that as high as 2,000."
      The European Union alone receives some 250,000 asylum claims each
year, according to the 98-page report.
      The UNHCR announced that 31,030 asylum applications were made on the
continent in May, a 15 percent rise over the previous month.
      Refugees from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, mainly ethnic
Albanians from Kosovo, accounted for 13 percent of latest applications, the
largest group seeking asylum in Europe.
      They are followed by people fleeing Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran,
China, Russia and Sri Lanka, the agency said.

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