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Call on States to support UN and CoE initiatives for the protection of refugees and asylum seekers

Lord Richard Balfe (United Kingdom, NR), Lord Alexander Dundee (United Kingdom, EC/DA), UNHCR’s Director of International Protection, Grainne O’Hara, Pierre-Alain Fridez (Switzerland, SOC) and Lord Leslie Griffiths (United Kingdom, SOC)

Concerned about the frequency of expulsions and pushbacks of refugees and asylum seekers at Europe's borders, the PACE Standing Committee recalled that the 1951 Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights required States “to protect the rights of persons to seek asylum and ensure protection from refoulement, even if they enter a country irregularly”.

Marking the 70th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, PACE called on States to give their full support to UN and Council of Europe initiatives for the protection of refugees and asylum seekers, and to take specific actions at national level. In unanimously adopting a resolution, based on the report by Lord Leslie Griffiths (United Kingdom, SOC), it also underlined the key role of parliamentarians in raising awareness and contributing to the implementation of the 1951 Convention.

The parliamentarians also stated that in order to maintain the integrity of asylum systems in Europe and the international protection system as a whole, “the efficient and expeditious return of persons found not to be in need of international protection” was essential, while ensuring fairness and respect for international law.

The Standing Committee underlined its commitment to the role of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and welcomed its achievements, calling on member States to support it, and to align themselves, in all such cases, with the interpretation of the Convention put forward by the UNHCR.

Grainne O'Hara, Director of International Protection at UNHCR, participated in the parliamentary debate.

In a second resolution, also unanimously adopted, PACE called for European soldiers and private military and security companies to be “properly trained” in the content and application of international humanitarian law and the relevant parts of international human rights law – and is urging states to hold to account anyone violating these laws on the battlefield.

Adopting a resolution based on the report by Lord Balfe (United Kingdom, NR) PACE’s Standing Committee said it was important that international humanitarian law – rules for protecting individuals in times of war – and international human rights law remained “complementary and coherent”.

It paid tribute to the European Court of Human Rights for its major contribution to this goal, in a series of landmark judgments, and urged states to closely follow the evolution of the Strasbourg case-law in this area.