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Regional Protection Programmes

This Communication sets out the Commission's action plan for one or more pilot Regional Protection Programmes. Regional Protection Programmes are designed to enhance the protection capacity of the regions involved - both regions of origin and transit regions alike - and to improve refugee protection through durable solutions (return, local integration or resettlement in a third country).

ACT

Commission Communication to the Council and the European Parliament of 1 September 2005 on regional protection programmes. [COM(2005) 388 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

This Communication sets out the Commission's action plan for pilot Regional Protection Programmes. As part of the European Union's new approach to the international protection system, Regional Protection Programmes will be proposed at a later stage, and these will be based on experience acquired when the pilot Protection Programmes presented in this communication were implemented.

Regional Protection Programmes are designed to enhance the protection capacity of the regions involved and to improve refugee protection through durable solutions, namely return *, local integration * and resettlement in a third country *.

These programmes will be based on existing actions, in particular under the programme for financial and technical assistance to third countries in the areas of migration and asylum (AENEAS), and the TACIS programme. The Commission would like to see increased coordination of EU policies in respect of refugees, humanitarian aid and development.

The programmes will reflect the different needs of countries:

  • in transit regions, where it will be necessary to build capacity on the southern and eastern borders of the EU to enable better management of migration and adequate protection for refugees;
  • in regions of origin, where a close partnership with third countries and direct consultation with UNHCR will be essential.

The Commission, which will ensure coordination between the Member States and the countries of origin, transit and first asylum, would like to see the issue of refugees and protection become a political priority for the third countries involved and the Member States of the European Union.

This Communication outlines the general framework in which the pilot Regional Protection Programmes should operate, makes recommendations for their geographical application and content and sets out a way forward for the incorporation of the Regional Protection Programme approach into the Community's relationship with the region and countries involved.

Content of Regional Protection Programmes

Regional Protection Programmes should comprise the following main actions:

  • projects designed to improve the general protection situation in the host country;
  • projects designed to establish an effective procedure for determining refugee status;
  • projects with direct benefits for refugees;
  • projects which benefit the local community hosting the refugees;
  • projects to promote training in protection issues for persons working with refugees and migrants;
  • a registration component based on UNHCR's Project Profile;
  • a voluntary commitment on the part of the Member States to provide durable solutions for the refugees in their countries. Resettlement of refugees in Member States will be essential in order to reinforce the partnership component of programmes.

With a view to increasing the budget available for these programmes, the Commission is planning to amend the Council Decision establishing the European Refugee Fund.

The Regions selected for the first Regional Protection Programmes

The Commission regards it as a priority to develop an action programme in the Western Newly Independent States (Ukraine/Moldova/Belarus) as regards transit regions and in sub-Saharan Africa (Great Lakes/East Africa) as regards regions of origin.

Regional Protection Programme for the Western NIS countries

The Western Newly Independent States (NIS) already benefit from various Community policies and funding. A pilot Regional Protection Programme for this transit region should seek to build on and complement the work already carried out with the cooperation of the authorities in the Western NIS countries. The main focus of this programme should be on strengthening existing protection capacity by incorporating subsidiary protection, integration, registration, case consideration and reception.

Proposals for activities should be submitted within the framework of:

  • projects proposed under the 2005 Call for Proposals for the AENEAS programme, which has allocated an indicative amount of 2 million for asylum and international protection in the region;
  • TACIS 2006 Regional Action Programmes;
  • other available financial opportunities.

Regional Protection Programmes for sub-Saharan Africa and other regions

The Commission takes the view that pilot programmes for regions of origin concern the following geographical areas:

  • the Great Lakes Region. This region is extremely important in terms of the programming of available financial instruments, the centrality of resettlement as a possible durable solution and the political priorities expressed by the Member States. The Commission envisages first selecting a particular and smaller geographical locus within the region concerned, and then implementing a series of targeted activities under AENEAS for a smaller-scale Regional Protection Programme. The communication designates Tanzania, which hosts the largest refugee population in Africa, mainly from Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo, and which benefits from one of ECHO 's largest programmes of emergency relief, as an ideal locus for a pilot programme.
  • the Afghanistan region. This region has been the focus of numerous actions by the Community as a whole and several Member States emphasising the return of Afghan nationals to their country;
  • the Horn of Africa;
  • North Africa. This region is also clearly a preoccupation of the Member States and it is already the focus of much Community-sponsored action.

The Commission advocates close cooperation with UNHCR.

Pilot Regional Protection Programmes will be subject to close evaluation and monitoring during the initial phase in order to decide on the necessary future initiatives.

Background

This Communication, which is based on the Commission Communication of 14 June 2004 "Improving Access to Durable Solutions", represents the Commission's reply to the Council Conclusions of 2-3 November 2004 which invited the Commission to present an action plan for one or more pilot Regional Protection Programmes. In a spirit of shared responsibility, the European Union has undertaken to set up a more accessible, equitable and effective international protection system in partnership with third countries and to facilitate access to durable solutions. The three durable solutions are return, local integration or resettlement in a third country.

Key terms used in the act
  • Repatriation: returning individuals to their country of origin.
  • Local integration: integrating refugees into the community of a host country, with the possibility of legal residence and personal autonomy.
  • Resettlement: entails selecting and transferring refugees from a state in which they have sought protection to a Member State in which they have protection guarantees comprising residence and the possibility of integration and autonomy. Resettlement can be used in situations in which refugees can neither return to their country of origin nor be integrated into the country of first asylum.
Last updated: 02.11.2005
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