At a time when there are more than 10 million refugees around the world, the challenges we face are still immense. This World Refugee Day provides an opportunity for France to reaffirm its commitment.
In 1952, France created the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons – OFPRA – an authority that exercises its jurisdiction on an independent basis, and is responsible for determining refugee status according to the Geneva Convention. It also established a court of appeal, the National Court for the Right of Asylum, whose trial councils always include a representative from the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This system underscores the essential role played by the Geneva Convention in French law as well as the recognition of the crucial role of the UNHCR with respect to the protection of refugees.
France affirms its determination to implement the existing international principles and norms to that effect. It notably made further commitments in 2011 with respect to bringing travel documents issued to refugees and stateless persons up to date and with respect to improving the language training provided to refugees and their family members arriving in France in order to facilitate their integration into French society.
France pledges to provide active support to the efforts of the southern Mediterranean countries which are working in partnership with the EU to develop their national asylum and protection systems, notably within the framework of the EU Regional Protection Programs.
Lastly, this World Refugee Day provides an opportunity for us to reaffirm France’s commitment alongside the UNHCR. The 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees serves as a legal basis for the UNHCR which is a UN agency. During its 60-year history the UNHCR has helped around 50 million people. Today, the agency operates in more than 123 countries. 61 years after its creation, the Office of the High Commissioner is unfortunately still necessary.