UNHCR concerned about EU migration policy
The UN refugee agency on Friday expressed concern over EU policies aimed at combatting illegal migration, warning that they could be blocking asylum seekers who are really in need of protection.
"In its efforts to stem illegal migration, Europe should not forget that among those seeking to enter the EU are people who need international protection and are at the risk of their lives," said UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the fall in the overall number of asylum seekers arriving by sea demonstrates how difficult it is for people to seek protection in the continent.
"Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta have all seen drastic reductions in arrivals by sea over the past year or two, almost certainly a result of tighter border controls, joint patrols and push-backs at sea," said Mahecic.
The agency said 8,800 people arrived by sea in the Meditarranean region in the first 10 months of the year, much fewer than the 32,000 who arrived over the same period in 2009.
"The stemming of sea arrivals is not solving the problem but shifting it elsewhere," said Mahecic, adding that the fall in sea arrivals has corresponded with a sharp rise in overland arrivals in the Evros region of Greece.
Mahecic also underlined the agency's concern about the situation for new arrivals in Greece, noting that an asylum seeker arriving in the country "currently has negligible chance of having his or her claim to refugee status properly assessed."
Greece needs EU support to bring "its asylum system up to standard," he added.
© 2010 AFP