Thursday 18 January 2018

Asylum seekers should be processed outside EU - UN's Irish representative on migration

Irishman Peter Sutherland also called for a quota system to be adopted by the union's 28 countries
Irishman Peter Sutherland also called for a quota system to be adopted by the union's 28 countries

Michael McHugh

Asylum seekers trying to reach Europe should be processed at a country outside the EU then distributed fairly among member states, the UN's special representative on migration said.

Irishman Peter Sutherland also called for a quota system to be adopted by the union's 28 countries based on the size of their economies or populations. At present Germany, Sweden and Hungary are among the states taking the most refugees.

Last year 276,000 "irregular" migrants crossed the Mediterranean, Mr Sutherland said. Up to 1,500 are feared to have drowned this year alone.

Mr Sutherland said: "Would it not be possible for the EU to consider establishing in countries such as Egypt, for example, a processing centre or a mechanism for processing asylum applications and then sharing out those applications rather than forcing people to endanger their lives, for them to travel across the Mediterranean in boats capable of sinking and bringing about the horrendous deaths we are seeing on a yearly basis - a multiple of what we saw on the Titanic but getting far less publicity?"

The EU had been accused of being too slow to react to the growing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. Earlier this month a fishing boat carrying people from Libya sank killing up to 800, in what the UN has called the deadliest incident in the Mediterranean ever recorded.

Mr Sutherland, an Irish businessman and representative of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, addressed lawmakers in Dublin. He said Ireland did not have other countries' "rabid" anti-immigrant parties and should show leadership.

"There are things that should be done, can be done. We and others can do more than we are doing.

"We are fortunate in Ireland that our political class does not contain the sort of rabid anti-immigrant minority parties that are evident elsewhere."

He said that was understandable as Ireland had provided, regrettably, large numbers of migrants in the past.

"There is no silver bullet to the issue of large numbers of people who might like to live in Europe - from Africa, Asia, the Middle East - and so when there is no simple answer of opening borders and finding a solution everybody can immediately accept and agree, whether we like it or not, we have to move incrementally - step by step."

He added: "I think that there should be some form of quota distribution of refugees based on objective criteria, be it GDP per capita or total population or a combination of the two.

"There should be a fair distribution, otherwise we are inevitably going to find ourselves in a position that many countries are simply going to get hundreds of thousands.

"They will get large numbers of migrants and they will simply wave them through (to other countries).

"We need joint processing of refugee applications, we probably need to process in a different way and together handle the application of individuals who claim to be refugees and therefore escaping from persecution."

Press Association

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