Date: Thu, 7 Oct 1999 04:02:16 -0400

* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty

International *

7 October 1999


The special EU summit on justice and home affairs following the

Amsterdam Treaty's entry into force must result in a re-opening of the

EU's doors to those seeking protection from persecution. "The message

Amnesty International expects from Heads of States and Governments

meeting in Tampere is that the EU will comply with its commitment to the

Geneva Convention and International Human Rights Laws and grant full

protection to refugees", Brigitte Ernst de la Graete, Director of AI 's

EU Assocation said.

"In the new framework of the Amsterdam Treaty, the Tampere summit offers

a unique opportunity for a turn-around towards the respect for

international standards in the future EU asylum policy." Yet, there is a

serious risk that Heads of States and Governments will simply confirm

years of increasing control and a de facto lock-out policy.

Full Protection

"Amnesty International notices an increasing gap between the EU

governments' rhetoric on asylum issues and reality. While they keep

paying lip-service to upholding their international obligations to

refugee protection, facts demonstrate the opposite." National

governments have implemented measures aimed at preventing legitimate

refugees seeking asylum from persecution from reaching Europe and, once

in the EU, from obtaining full refugee status with full rights.

International Solidarity

Over the last decade, the trend has been on a closed-doors attitude,

aimed at protecting "Fortress Europe" when the numbers of asylum seekers

reaching the EU is minimal. In 1998, less than 30.000 were granted

asylum in EU member states. The EU hosted 16 percent of the world's 16,5

million refugees and displaced persons last year, and even when crisises

arise in Europ, the EU is not faced with massive influxes, as recently

domenstrated by the Kosovo crisis. Of the 880.000 displaced in the

region, some 100.000 applied for asylum outside the region and 75.400 of

them returned to Kosovo after agreement was reached between NATO and


"Instead of argueing about the sharing of the so-called burden of asylum

seekers and displaced persons, the 15 member states, which are among the

wealthiest countries in the world, should show their solidarity with

poorer regions hosting the overwhelming majority of refugees and

displaced persons." It must be ensured that already scarce resources for

Amnesty International is an independent worldwide movement working for

the release of all prisoners of conscience, fair and prompt trials for

political prisoners and an end to torture, extrajudicial executions,

"disappearances" and the death penalty. It is funded by donations from

its members and supporters throughout the world. It has formal relations

with the United Nations, UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the Organization

of African Unity and the Organization of American States. programmes

urgently needed in regions where asylum problems are acute are not

detracted to prevent refugees from reaching EU territory.

Tackling Human Rights Violations

Amnesty International shares the view that a comprehensive approach to

asylum issues is needed. "EU governments focus on control and do not

adress the source of refugee flows, which is the disrespect for human

rights in the countries of origin." However, the recently presented

action plans of the EU High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration

fall short of its initial goal to consider the need to improve respect

for human rights and the socio-economic situation in countries where

asylum seekers come from. The measures proposed are mostly devoted to

prevent migration into the EU, such as the incease in the effectiveness

of airline liason officers in implementing the EU's visa regime in

countries of origin, the fight against forged documents, the design of

readmission agreements (agreements on the obligation of third countries

to take back people entering on an irregular manner without the

necessary authorization).

"The implementation of these measures ignores the specific needs of

people seeking protection. Asylum and protections measures for those who

flee human rights abuses cannot be subordinated to migration control."

Amnesty International stresses that the accent should be on protecting

and not preventing refugees coming to Europe.

For further information or to arrange for an interview, please contact:

María-Teresa Gil-Bazo, Executive Officer for Asylum Issues

Gabriele Juen, Executive Officer

Amnesty International EU Association

T + 32/2/502 1499, F +32/2/502 56 86


Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street,

WC1X 8DJ, London, United Kingdom


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