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The informal meeting devoted to justice, security and liberty in the European Union ended on Saturday, 29 January 2005, with a debate on the issue of the external dimension of European asylum and immigration policy chaired by Nicolas Schmit, the Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs and Immigration. Ruud Lubbers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, took part in the discussion.
In the presentation of his priorities, Mr. Lubbers called on the Member States of the EU, at a time in which they are engaged in the process of implementing a common European asylum procedure, to share responsibility with those developing countries that host the largest number of refugees.
At the end of the meeting, the Presidency, speaking through Nicolas Schmit, stated that "the citizens of Europe want a clear response to issues concerning the problems connected with immigration and with asylum seekers. The solution to these problems must be linked to external policies and to development. The refugee issue is a collective issue, the responsibility for which should be shared by the entire international community in an equitable way and not only by the countries that are located near regions in crisis. All European policy in this area should be based on the standards of the Geneva Convention on the protection of refugees."
Minister Schmit emphasised that "a majority of refugees first claim for asylum in a country neighbouring their country of origin" adding that "these countries are themselves developing countrieswith limited financial and instrumental capacities. Rather than reacting to the flow of immigrants that have already reached its territory, the European Union should aid, in close cooperation with the UNHCR, the countries where the immigration originates in order to ensure adequate protection for the refugees, who are very vulnerable."
In the name of the European Commission, Franco Frattini stated that in July 2005 he will present his action plan concerning the programme for strengthening the protection of refugees in the regions of origin.
The Commission is expected to present a proposal regarding resettlement programmes, that consists in the transfer of a refugee from a first country of reception to a second one, in this context meaning from a country in the region of origin to an EU country. In the Presidency’s view, such a proposal could be inspired by the current practice of some Member States.
The EU support measures for regions of transit could be similar to those included in protection programmes for regions of origin.
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