Irish bishops call for refugees to be protected under new EU presidency

 In the run up to Ireland's Presidency of the European Union, the Committee of the Irish Bishops' Conference on Asylum Seekers and Refugees has issued a statement calling on the government to expedite EU asylum and migration legislation, in order to put in place the highest standard of policies and procedures for migrants and asylum applicants. According to Sister Joan Roddy, spokesperson for the IBC's Committee on Asylum Seekers and Refugees, "Ireland's Presidency of the European Union bestows a unique opportunity on Government to lead Member States in agreeing on a tangible and just Europe-wide policy regarding asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants. Currently there is no common EU policy regarding asylum and immigration and in many cases this has led to an erosion of human rights and chaos for all concerned. "This legislation, if enacted, would harmonise migration policies and procedures, protecting the rights of asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants across the European Union, which will grow from 15 to 25 member States on May 1st, 2004." During its Presidency of the EU, the Bishops appeal to the Irish government: - to ensure that the harmonization of key legislation in relation to asylum and immigration, to be finalised during Ireland's Presidency, upholds the highest human rights standards and is in accord with all international obligations under UN Conventions. (Tight EU deadlines cannot justify the elimination from legislation of provisions that are essential to the protection of the rights of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.) - to regularize the situation of some 10,500 non-EEA parents of Irish citizen children who, when they made their application, had a legitimate expectation of being granted residency. - to uphold the right of all those who wish to seek asylum in Ireland to enter the country and to have their asylum application processed, with clear accountability and transparency at every stage of the process, from arrival at our shores onward. - to grant leave to remain on humanitarian and other grounds to persons who may not qualify for refugee recognition but who nevertheless are clearly in need of protection. Many asylum applicants come from countries currently at war. - to put in place a comprehensive, fair, transparent and sustainable immigration policy to facilitate those wishing to immigrate to Ireland and their families. - to take a lead by being the first member state of the EU to sign the UN Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Noting that Christmas is the family feast par excellence, the Bishops conclude by recalling how God's Son was born in poor surroundings, away from home; how, with Mary and Joseph, Jesus was forced to flee for his life and how this refugee family needed shelter until it was safe to return to their own country. To read the full document visit the Irish Bishops' Conference website at:

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