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[Press Release] Human Rights Day: No to diminishing the universality of the right of asylum

December 2015

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Paris, 10 December 2015 – Since 1951, the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees has protected men, women and children fleeing their country. Some of them seek refuge in Europe. Faced with the need to regulate the flow of people arriving or due to fear of the unknown, many European countries have established lists of ‘safe’ countries of origin.

This past year, the ’migration crisis’ affecting Europe has attracted exceptional media attention. As the new arrivals or applicants seeking to enter Europe have become more numerous, public opinion has become less sympathetic and more fearful of these foreigners, who are seen as a threat. Policy-makers, whether national or European, are responding with a selection system and have decided to set down more severe file processing conditions for asylum seekers from so called ‘safe’ countries.

Among the lists of safe countries of origin, which vary by country, we find countries where grave human rights violations, in particular torture, are common currency. Establishing such a tool is, therefore, not without risk to the people from those countries because they face accelerated asylum application procedures which do not allow them sufficient time to prove that they are in danger or under threat, and the likelihood of being sent back to their country of origin.

1951 Refugee Convention – Article 3 – Non-discrimination
The Contracting States shall apply the provisions of this Convention to refugees
without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin.

Discrimination must never be legalised, at either national or European level. It is therefore the concept of the ‘safe country of origin’ itself, as a selection criterion infringing on the principle of equality, that must be removed from European Directives in order to restore primacy and universality to the United Nations Geneva Convention. [1]

On this International Human Rights Day, and in accordance with their commitment to the respect of human dignity and non-discrimination, FIACAT and the European ACATs are calling for their national authorities and the European Union to do away with the lists of safe countries of origin in existence and to remove the concept of ‘safe countries of origin’ from all Directives.

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[1] 145 States Party, 19 Signatories

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