UNHCR calls for collective European response to refugee crisis
The EU needs to develop a collective response to the unprecedented refugee crisis, said the head the UN refugee agency at a press conference in Geneva yesterday.
Europe is facing an increasing number of people fleeing violence in their own country, and should not be dealing with the crisis on an individual basis, said United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, supported by French Minister of Internal Affairs, Bernard Cazeneuve.
"It is clear that Europe has the capacities and the size needed to meet the challenges, assuming that it shows unity and jointly assumes this responsibility," said Guterres.
A total of 293,000 refugees have tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe since the start of the year, he said; 2,440 of these have died trying to make the crossing.
|A total of 293,000 refugees have tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe since the 2015.|
"Let's be frank: 293,000 is a huge number for countries like the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or Serbia, or even Hungary or Greece," he said before acknowledging that this was actually a relatively low figure compared to the whole of Europe that has 508 million inhabitants.
This figure is even lower compared to Syria's neighbouring countries, for example Lebanon that now has a third of its population made up from Palestinian and Syrian refugees.
Referring to the chaos on 21 and 22 August when the Former Republic of Macedonia closed its border with Greece to stop refugees crossing en route to western European countries, he said it was important to act quickly considering the human tragedies these people had suffered.
Most of the refugees came from Syria and had reached Greece by sea from Turkey.
"Taking into account all the human tragedies that these people have suffered, it only makes sense that we must act; we must act quickly and must act effectively," Guterres said.
Head of the UNHCR also said more resources needed to be allocated to improve cooperation and humanitarian assistance and address the root cause of the problem.
"I remind you that the support program to Syrian refugees is only funded only up to 41 per cent overall and up to 21 per cent in Turkey, which is also the country where from the most dramatic displacements have been recorded in eastern Mediterranean."