2011 is the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. This Convention, which was originally prepared from a European standpoint, evolved into a global instrument after the adoption of the 1967 Protocol.
In the run-up to this anniversary, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is responsible for ensuring the international protection of over 26 million uprooted persons, is facing several challenges.
On the legal front, careful attention must be paid to the impact of the European Union legal arsenal on the Geneva Convention.
At the practical level, the vital question to be addressed (particularly in connection with the “asylum shopping” phenomenon) is access to asylum and asylum procedures, and therefore to all the rights secured under the Geneva Convention.
As regard principles, we must draw attention to the actual authority of the UNHCR, because there is too often a gulf between the rhetoric used by states and their practice vis-à-vis refugees.
Lastly, 2011 is also the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. This will be an opportunity for highlighting the need to provide permanent solutions for refugees, notably by granting them real access to nationality.
The Parliamentary Assembly should reiterate its unwavering support for the UNHCR and prepare a report analysing the major challenges facing it, as well as the Council of Europe’s potential role in these fields, bearing in mind the European Convention on Human Rights, the monitoring procedures implemented by the Council of Europe’s monitoring bodies and the work of the Assembly.