Why the UK needs to take note of the European Commissioner for Human Rights

Earlier this week the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg stated that Europe should accept more refugees  in need of safe resettlement.

Nine out of ten refugees stranded

The UNHCR estimates that annual resettlement needs amount to some 800,000 refugees.   European Governments between them have offered to accommodate only 80, 000 annually. This leaves 90% of the world’s 800,000 refugees stranded in uncertain circumstances with no prospect of resettlement for 10 years.

The UK – a poor track record

The UK deals with refugee resettlement primarily through  its Gateway Protection Programme. In summary under this programme the UNHCR refers cases to the UK Border Agency who then go on to asses these cases individually.

Cases are examined with a view to establishing whether those referred are refugees,  people at risk of human rights breaches and whether they are unable to sustain long-term security and have a lack of local integration in the country where they have initially sought refuge.

The UK accepts only 2% of the total.  Its current resettlement quota for the year is a mere 750.  Figures are not presently available to verify whether was met last year. Past figures however rather embarrassingly show that the UK has consistently resettled fewer refugees that its quota would allow for. The figures are: 150 (2004), 70 (2005), 355 (2006), 465 (2007), 640 (2008)

A worldwide comparison

The Commissioner highlights the disparity between the numbers of refugees received by America and Europe.  Europe accommodates only 14% of the world’s refugees. In contrast the USA accommodates seven times more refugees than European countries and some African states host more refugees than all of Europe put together. In fact  80% of the world’s refugees are today living in developing countries.

The future

The Commission recently proposed the establishment of a Joint EU Resettlement Programme, in which member states would receive financial assistance for resettling refugees. Until something this is introduced the Commissioner is asking European states to support the UNHCR in overcoming the crisis facing refugees by increasing their annual quotas. With the Coalition attempting to cultivate an  image for its immigration policy as one  tough on control but human rights friendly in spirit, one might hope for an improvement in the UK in this thoroughly unsatisfactory state of affairs.

About jcwi

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is a key campaigning voice in the field of immigration, asylum and nationality law and policy. It is completely independent from government funding, remaining entirely free from government influence. View all posts by jcwi

One response to “Why the UK needs to take note of the European Commissioner for Human Rights

  • Jacqui

    We should hang our heads in shame at what we are NOT doing! so much for UK justice it seems we only give justice to the rich people and not the poor.

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