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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/EU: U.N. commissioned report says European policies pro...
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Tue Aug 08 2000 - 10:01:48 EDT

          U.N. commissioned report says European policies pro...

APws 7/7/00 5:52 PM

The Associated Press.

  Associated Press Writer
    GENEVA (AP) -- Increasingly tough European asylum policies have
effectively slammed the door in the face of genuine refugees, forcing the
persecuted into the arms of traffickers because they have no legal routes
left, a U.N. commissioned report said Friday.
    "Refugees are now forced to use illegal means if they want to access
Europe at all," said the 100-page report by an independent British refugee
expert, John Morrison, commissioned by the U.N. High Commissioner for
    "It's tragic that it takes the death of 58 people to bring the world's
attention to focus on this problem," Morrison said in reference to the
Chinese migrants who suffocated in the back of a sweltering, airtight truck
during a ferry crossing from the Netherlands to Britain last month.
    Morrison said measures like restrictive common visa policies, sanctions
on airlines and the widespread use of "liaison officers" to kick suspected
illegal immigrants off planes were forcing asylum seekers to risk their
lives with more dangerous methods to reach the West.
    "If it's no longer possible to get access with forged papers on to a
plane, you're forced into the back of the truck," said Morrison. Hundreds
of people had died in the past decade trying to gain entry to Europe, he
    Figures released Friday by UNHCR said 31,000 people applied for asylum
in Europe in May -- higher than in April but lower than last year. Germany
and Britain accounted for one-fifth of all applications.
    In total, nearly 250,000 people applied for asylum last year, according
to UNHCR. Kosovo Albanians accounted for the biggest proportion, followed
by Iraqis and Afghans -- a picture which has remained unchanged this year.
    Asylum applications are well down on the 1992 peak when nearly 700,000
asked for refuge in Europe. Even so, there is an increasing popular
perception among west Europeans that they are being swamped by foreigners.
    The tough anti-immigration stance, which has proved a vote-winner for
right-wing parties throughout the continent, has become mainstream policy
as governments tighten entry requirements and clamp down on benefits to
people once in the country.
    There is no overall EU estimate for what proportion of asylum seekers
arrived via traffickers, but the report said it was considerable.
    "What seems likely is that a very large number -- perhaps the majority
-- of asylum seekers arriving in Central or Western Europe had been
trafficked," it said.
    It said that smuggled migrants accounted for nearly 30 percent of
illegal entrants intercepted at German borders last year. Some 77 percent
of all illegal entrants into Britain had attempted clandestine entry, it
    The report pointed out that Europe's most smuggled and trafficked
nationalities -- such as Iraqis and Afghans -- also had very high rates of
recognition as genuine political refugees.
    "A significant proportion of all people brought in are bona fide
refugees even in the eyes of the governments themselves," said Morrison.
    Governments must therefore do more to open an escape route to the
persecuted, he said, and to train airline and border officials to be more
sensitive to the fact that some immigrants were refugees.
    "The direction of current policy risks not so much solving the problem
of trafficking but rather ending the right of asylum in Europe," said
    UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said the agency was studying the report. But
he said that it did not constitute UNHCR policy.
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