4 July 2001
German Süssmuth Commission Opens Way for Change on Key Asylum Issue
The European Council on Refugees and Exiles cautiously welcomed the outcome of the Süssmuth Commission, set up by the German Minister of the Interior, Mr Schilly, that the decision about who should be considered a refugee under the Refugee Convention should be left to joint agreement by European Union states. This provides an opportunity for Germany to come to the same principled and legal approach as the majority of states in Europe and the world, who grant refugee status to victims of persecution regardless of the persecutor.
People in many parts of the world suffer persecution at the hands of armed groups because of their religion, ethnic background or political opinion, where the state is not able or willing to provide protection. The vast majority of countries agree that such persons deserve refugee status under the Refugee Convention. Germany is one of the few countries in the world that until now has not accepted this position nor the guidance of the United Nations.
Only two weeks ago, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, called on Germany to change its stand.
"The Süssmuth Commission's report is an invitation to the European Union to develop legislation firmly based on this global consensus."
"Human suffering is the key issue, not the persecutor", said Peer Baneke, General Secretary of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles.
The European Council on Refugees and Exiles represents 72 non-governmental organisations concerned with refugees in 28 European countries. ECRE is concerned with the needs of individuals who seek protection in Europe and contributes to the development of a comprehensive response to the global refugee problem.
For further comments you may call:
· Peer Baneke, ECRE General Secretary on +44 07808 295613 (mobile) or +44 (0)20 7729 5152 extension 205 at the ECRE Secretariat in London
· Irene Donadio, ECRE's EU Representative in Brussels on +32 2 514 5939 or +32 475 25 16 66 (mobile)
or representatives of the following ECRE member organisations in Germany and Switzerland:
· Harald Lohlein, Der Paritaetische Wohlfahrstverband on +49 69 6706 201
· Martina Liebsch, Deutscher Caritasverband on +49 761 200 436
· Juerg Schertenleib, Swiss Refugee Council (OSAR/SFH) on +41 31 370 75 75
The full text of the Süssmuth Commission’s report can be found at http://www.bmi.bund.de/frameset/index.jsp