Refugee crisis likely to worsen, UN official says
New York - EU leaders had an emergency meeting with Turkish officials to discuss the Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II, just days after a UN official warned that the migrant influx from Syria was likely to spiral.
“It’s not going to go away. It’s going to get worse,” said Peter Sutherland, referring to the flood of migrants into Europe. Sutherland, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for international migration, was speaking in New York to a group that included UN representatives from Europe.
Sutherland added that “if history is anything to go by, we can’t take for granted that this problem in any way is going to significantly abate in the immediate future”.
The push by Sutherland — a former attorney general of Ireland who also served as EU commissioner for competition policy — and other international migration officials to speed up aid for refugees is aimed at pressuring the European Union to take unified action. This effort follows months of tensions among the EU’s 28 members and escalating go-it-alone policies.
Sutherland also criticised the United States for taking in too few asylum-seekers and indicated that the rise of a radical right-wing figure, such as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, could trigger stronger anti-migrant sentiment.
EU officials have tried to get Turkey to crack down on migrant movements from Turkey to Greece and were expected to declare that the main Balkan migration route from Greece to northern Europe was closed, news reports said.
Almost 3 million refugees from Syria have been given shelter in Turkey. Thousands travel by sea from Turkey to Greece in hopes of being granted asylum in northern Europe. Many refugees have been stranded in Greece since nine Balkan states and Austria in February toughened border policies to stem the flow of refugees from Greece.
“With every hour that passes that the countries of Europe fail to coordinate concerted action to address this problem, it only worsens,” Christopher Boian, a Washington-based public information officer for the UN Refugee Agency, said in an interview. “The numbers of people flowing into Europe continue unabated and may be growing as the weather gets better in the spring and sea crossings become less dangerous.”
The warnings of a rising influx from Syria come ahead of a March 30th conference in Geneva by the UN Refugee Agency to gather pledges to resettle Syrians displaced by the war. “That 30th of March conference is important,” Sutherland said. “We will see the whites of the eyes of those who attend, because they will be asked to pledge places for resettlement or relocation.”
Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Greece should not be forced to take in all the displaced Syrians just because they are geographically closer to the Syrian war, Sutherland said.
“If you’re unlucky enough to live in Lebanon or in Jordan or in Turkey, you take far more refugees than anyone else per capita. In the European Union, the Greeks take by far the most,” he added. Greece is rapidly transforming into a “vast internment camp for refugees”, he said.
Sutherland said the flow of refugees from Syria and other conflicts is driving xenophobia among Europeans and Americans.
“All over Europe, people are saying, ‘We’ve had enough,’” Sutherland said. “People like Trump are making similar arguments about migrants more generally in the United States. ‘This is our land’ is the refrain,” he added.
“For Europe, resettling refugees within EU countries is unlikely to create an economic burden,” Sutherland claimed.
“We have 540 million people in the richest part of the world,” he said. “We’re talking about a million people a year. You can work out the percentages yourselves that this would require.”
He added that migrants typically add to economic growth and have lower jobless rates all over the world.
Sutherland pointedly criticised the United States for taking in too few refugees from Syria and other countries. He added that, “looking at the number of refugees per capita taken in the United States, I think it’s pathetic… Why should the United States be less responsible for the migrants and refugees than Greece?”
He said that between January and November 2015, the United States took in 379 refugees. During the same period, Sweden took in 14,328; the United Kingdom took in 531 and Ireland took 637.”
“This is a pretty horrific indictment and an expression of the differences between different countries and their responses to this,” Sutherland added.