Europe’s refugee crisis a global issue at G7 summit
London - There is a refugee crisis gripping Europe and it is one that the world must unite to address, Group of Seven (G7) leaders said following a summit in Japan.
Speaking at the start of the meeting, European Council President Donald Tusk said: “We are aware that because of geography, most of responsibility [for the refugee crisis] has been and will be placed on Europe. If the G7 does not take the lead in managing the crisis, nobody would. We would also like the global community to show solidarity and recognise the fact that this is a global crisis.”
The G7 final communiqué addressed the scale of Europe’s refugee problem but also asserted the global scale of the issue.
“With the number of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons and vulnerable migrants at its highest level since the second world war, the G7 recognises the ongoing large-scale movements of migrants and refugees as a global challenge that requires a global response,” the communiqué said.
The Japan summit saw the leaders of the G7 — the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada — discuss a range of issues, not least Europe’s refugee crisis and its global repercussions.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) placed the world’s displaced population at a post-war record 60 million, including 20 million displaced outside their own countries.
In 2015, 1.3 million refugees from war-torn conflicts, particularly Iraq and Syria, asked for asylum in the European Union. European countries have carried out a number of measures to address the increasing numbers of refugees and economic migrants to the continent, with Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria and Slovakia putting up fences to stop the flow.
However, desperate refugees and economic migrants continue to find increasingly dangerous ways to enter the continent, with one popular route from North Africa across the Mediterranean to Italy.
In a recent week, more than 15,000 people arrived in Italy, many following dramatic rescue after making the journey in overcrowded and leaky boats that capsized. More than 700 refugees died in three shipwrecks in the Mediterranean in the deadliest week in late May in the refugee crisis for more than a year.
According to the UNHCR, at least 3,800 people died or vanished at sea seeking to enter Europe. Heading into June, that number stands above 2,000 for 2016.
The fraught route from Libya to Italy is the easiest path for African refugees and economic migrants. Refugees fleeing the Middle East — Syria, Iraq and Turkey — have traditionally travelled via Turkey into Greece and through southern Europe. That route has seen a significant decrease in migration following an EU deal with Turkey that had Greece deport migrants. Some analysts say Italy could emerge as the major entry point for migrants.
This is something that will also have economic strains on the European Union, with the G7 vowing to increase financial assistance. “We commit to increase global assistance to meet immediate and long-term needs of refugees and other displaced persons as well as their host communities… The G7 encourages international financial institutions and bilateral donors to bolster their financial and technical assistance,” the G7 final communiqué said.
Germany accepted more than one-third of Europe’s refugees in 2015 and has called for more combined thinking in how to budget for the refugee influx.
German Development Minister Gerd Muller has pushed for a European strategy to deal with the refugee crisis, including diverting 10% of the EU budget to deal with the problem. He also called for the European Union to appoint a single commissioner to deal with the crisis.