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European Union8 September 2008

EU asylum ministers asked to do more for refugee journalists

Reporters Without Borders has written to the 27 European Union ministers responsible for asylum policy ahead of this week’s “Building a Europe of Asylum” ministerial conference in Paris, asking them to do more to protect the dozens of journalists and free speech activists who are forced into exile each year to escape reprisals by governments or non-state groups.

“The current situation is dramatic and most journalists seeking asylum - who mainly come from Eritrea, Iran, Iraq or Sri Lanka - have difficulty finding refuge,” the letter says. “The long waits in the offices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the almost systematic refusal of western embassies to grant them visas force the great majority to risk their lives by resorting to illegal immigration methods.

“For this reason, there is an urgent need not only to recognise the refugee status of journalists in your country seeking asylum but also to facilitate procedures for protected entry and emergency resettlement.”

Daniel Gezahegn, an ethiopian journalist, waiting in Yemen since 2005

The European governments cannot claim to be building a “Europe of asylum” as long as people seeking protection are denied access to European territory, Reporters Without Borders said. How can they defend the fact that, despite tangible evidence of threats and dangers, some journalists spend years living in refugee camps or hiding in cities where their safety is not guaranteed?

The two-day ministerial conference is due to begin in Paris on 8 September. The negotiations on asylum police are supposed to conclude in October when the European Council is to adopt a European Pact on Immigration and Asylum.

Reporters Without Borders has helped more than 160 refugee journalists since the start of 2007 and estimates that around 100 journalists are currently waiting to be given protection.

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