Monday 26 September 2016

EU's migrant quota plan 'doesn't make sense' - UN

Amber Kloss New York

Published 13/10/2015 | 02:30

A migrant child eats an apple as he waits at the border crossing with Croatia, near the village of Berkasovo, Serbia
A migrant child eats an apple as he waits at the border crossing with Croatia, near the village of Berkasovo, Serbia

The United Nations' top official for refugees has dismissed European Union plans to take in about 160,000 migrants as "insufficient", and has urged Europe to provide asylum seekers with legal immigration options.

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Antonio Guterres said the relocation programme was a starting point but not enough. Speaking in Athens, he called for the EU to accept more refugees, and expand beyond Syrians, Iraqis and Eritreans.

More than 500,000 economic migrants have entered Europe this year, four-fifths of whom paid to be smuggled by sea to Greece from Turkey.

Mr Guterres, the UN high commissioner for refugees, said that "doesn't make sense" when they could have a legal alternative. He says: "We need to increase substantially the forms of people being able to come to Europe legally."

Meanwhile, in Athens, Greek authorities have revealed that they rescued a total 1,624 refugees and economic migrants who entered the country in dozens of frail boats from Turkey over the past three days.

Crisis

The coastguard said that the migrants were picked up in 47 incidents near Greece's eastern Aegean islands of Lesbos, Kos, Chios, Samos, Leros, Agathonissi and Farmakonissi.

Greece has become the main entry point to the EU for the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

And yesterday, in the UK, leading former judges and lawyers criticised the British government's "slow and narrow" response to the migrant crisis.

Lord Phillips, former UK Supreme Court head, and Lord Macdonald, ex-director of public prosecutions, were among 300 to sign an open letter on the issue.

They said that the offer to accept 20,000 refugees over five years was not enough. One retired judge said the UK could cope with taking in 75,000 a year.

The British government had said it had been at the forefront of the global response.

In addition to offering to accept 20,000 refugees from camps bordering war-torn Syria, it has provided £1bn in aid to Syria, with an extra £100m given to charities to help thousands of people displaced by the conflict.

Among others to put their name to the open letter to the press is former president of the European Court of Human Rights, Nicolas Bratza.

Signatory Catriona Jarvis, a retired judge, told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme the government's response to the refugee crisis had been "too low, too slow and too narrow".

"Around the Balkan crisis we were receiving around 75,000 a year. It was within our capability. We managed it well," she said.

"We are the sixth or seventh richest country in the world, it is not beyond our capabilities to make the necessary changes to receive our share.

"International protection, it is a shared duty, a shared responsibility."

The letter, published yesterday, said that the UK's offer was "deeply inadequate", noting that in Lebanon - a country of five million - there were a total 1.2 million registered Syrian refugees.

Lawyers say that even though the refugees have a right to legal protection, they are being driven "into the hands of people-smugglers".

They say many members of the European Union make it impossible for people to seek asylum via normal means of travel and that the entire system is dysfunctional.

Irish Independent

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