Thank you Chair,
I have the honor today to deliver this statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries Montenegro1, Albania* as well as Georgia align themselves with this statement.
Let me start by thanking UNHCR for another comprehensive note and oral update on the challenges and achievements in providing international protection and solutions to persons of concern for UNHCR since our meeting a year ago. We want to particularly thank Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Volker Turk, for your enormous dedication and inspiration over the past years, as a voice for stateless and forcibly displaced persons, and for skilfully spearheading the global discussions towards a better, more equitable and comprehensive global approach to refugee protection and solutions. It is with great sadness that that we see you leave UNHCR, but congratulate you and wish you all the best for your new important function in the Office of the UN Secretary-General.
As UNHCR has outlined in its note on international protection, last year was marked by some important milestones and achievements in international protection. The General Assembly adopted resolution 73/151 in December last year2. In our globalised world, forced displacement can only be addressed effectively by the international community as a whole. The EU and its Member States thank UNHCR for its support in providing protection, assistance and finding solutions to displacement situations in Europe and across the world and reconfirm our commitment to meet this common global challenge in a spirit of partnership.
We acknowledge the many positive examples, highlighted in this year's note, of progressive laws, policies and practice that have been put in place in refugee hosting countries for the benefit of refugees and host communities alike. The EU and its Member States commend the work done in addressing the many refugee challenges the world faces today, in the spirit of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, for example under the auspices of the MIRPS process, in response to the Venezuela crisis, in the IGAD region in the Horn of Africa, to name but a few. We are committed to do our part to contribute to international burden- and responsibility sharing, in line with the EU approach to forced displacement. The EU and its Member States have provided significant support to key refugee situation and refugee hosting countries, including through the rollout of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.
The first Global Refugee Forum in December will be an important opportunity to take stock and share good practices and experiences of comprehensive refugee responses so far, as well as demonstrate tangible support to ease the burden of refugee hosting countries and mobilize broader global support for burden- and responsibility sharing for refugee protection and solutions.
The European Union and its Member States continue to provide protection to persons fleeing war or persecution and are committed to providing safe and legal pathways to protection, in accordance with national capacities and competencies. In 2018, 580,800 asylum seekers applied for international protection in the 28 Member States of the European Union. The number of asylum applicants in the past year is comparable to the level recorded in 2014, before the peaks of 2015 and 2016. Protection status was granted to nearly 333,400 persons in 2018.
In addition, the EU and its Member States make important contribution to global resettlement efforts. Since 2015, successful EU resettlement programmes have helped over 60,000 of the most vulnerable refugees find shelter in EU Member States. In 2018, EU Member States received over 24,800 resettled refugees. We therefore maintained the high level of resettlement efforts reached in the previous year, compared to 13,000 in 2016 and 8,000 in 2015. EU funds significantly contributed to scaling up resettlement efforts by EU Member States. Under the EU-Turkey Statement, resettlements of Syrian refugees continue at a steady pace. Since its entry into force in March 2016, more than 22,000 Syrians have found protection in EU Member States. The current common EU resettlement scheme is well under way. While resettlements from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon continue, increased attention is also given to countries along the Central Mediterranean route, notably Egypt, Libya and Niger.
EU funds support the UNHCR in operating the emergency evacuation mechanism from Libya to Niger for the purpose of onward resettlement. This provides a life-saving measure for many vulnerable persons in need of international protection currently held in detention centers. According to the latest update, almost 3,800 persons have been evacuated from Libya so far, of which 2,800 to Niger. UNHCR’s role is key in this endeavor. We hope we can continue counting on your efforts.
In addition to resettlement, several EU Member States have also offered complementary pathways to protection and stepped up engagement with new models of private or community sponsorship, which can contribute to better integration outcomes.
The EU and its Member States have made great strides on asylum policy in recent years and was able to navigate through the crisis of 2015-2016. Completing the reform of the Common European Asylum System remains a top priority. We are committed to creating a modern system that is fully effective, humane and capable of dealing with any future crisis. EU Member States need to be able to efficiently process all asylum claims under their responsibility without being overburdened by disproportionate pressures, abusive claims and secondary movements. They also need to be able to swiftly return those who have been determined to not be in need of international protection. We thank UNHCR for its advice provided and continued support for the asylum reform.
The European Union and its Member States welcome the work of UNHCR related to the role of climate change, environmental degradation and natural disasters in increasingly interacting with the drivers of forced displacement. The EU continues to support initiatives to better understand and address these dynamics. The EU funds the Global Climate Change Alliance Plus programme that contributes to adaptation in partner countries. Support immediately after disasters, such as through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, can contribute to avoiding disasters leading to protracted crises. The EU also supports the Platform on Disaster Displacement.
Furthermore, the EU and its Member States welcome UNHCR commitment to place protection at the centre of humanitarian action. For the EU, the objective is to prevent, reduce and respond to the risks and consequences of violence, deprivation and abuse in humanitarian crises, in compliance with the humanitarian principles and within the framework of international law. We continue to encourage humanitarian actors to prioritise protection considerations and integrate them in all humanitarian activities. We rely on UNHCR as a global protection cluster coordinator to demonstrate leadership on protection issues at the global level as well as in respective crisis situations.
The European Union continues to support UNHCR's global campaign to eradicate statelessness. We welcome the upcoming High-Level Event on Statelessness at the UNHCR Executive Committee in October to mark the mid-point of the #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024. In support of this, a successful regional preparatory conference was held in Madrid in April this year.
Finally, the EU and its Member States support the role of UNHCR Executive Committee in providing guidance on issues related to international protection and solutions. Against this background, we support the efforts of the Executive Committee to agree on a work plan for adopting ExCom conclusions on international protection for 2020 and beyond, with the aim of finding common ground and developing further guidance for UNHCR, ExCom Member States and all actors devoted to addressing forced displacement situations.
Thank you, Chair.
1 Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
2 Taking into account that not all Member States voted in favour of the resolution.