The UN has criticized the European Union (EU) for failing to find a response to the spiraling refugee influx, urging the bloc to accept and distribute up to 200,000 asylum-seekers across the continent as part of a binding program for relocation of refugees.
“People who are found to have a valid protection claim… must … benefit from a mass relocation program, with the mandatory participation of all EU member states,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement on Friday.
“A very preliminary estimate would indicate a potential need to increase relocation opportunities to as many as 200,000 places,” he added.
The UN official criticized the EU for failing to “find an effective common response” to the “untenable situation” and said the only way to solve this problem is for the EU and all member states to “implement a common strategy, based on responsibility, solidarity and trust.”
“This is a primarily refugee crisis,” Guterres said, adding the vast majority of those arriving in Europe, including Greece, come from conflict zones like Syria and Iraq and are simply running for their lives.
“All people on the move in these tragic circumstances deserve to see their human rights and dignity fully respected, independently of their legal status,” he said.
Stressing that “the massive flow of people will not stop until the root causes of their plight are addressed,” the UN official said that “much more must be done to prevent conflicts and stop the ongoing wars that are driving so many from their homes.”
According to the UN official, more than 300,000 people have risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea so far this year, with over 2,600 losing their lives in the dangerous crossing, including three-year-old Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, whose photo has just stirred the hearts of the world public.
“Europe cannot go on responding to this crisis with a piecemeal or incremental approach,” Guterres said, referring to the pictures of the dead child whose lifeless body was found face down on a Turkish beach Wednesday.
The UN official’s remarks come as Europe is facing an unprecedented immigration and refugee crisis, which has escalated over summer. Refugees are coming directly to Europe instead of staying in camps in neighboring countries.
The continent is now divided over how to deal with a flood of people, mainly Syrians fleeing war in their homeland.
The 28-nation bloc is to convene a special meeting in two weeks to discuss a record surge in numbers and the opening up of new routes over the Balkans in addition to the Mediterranean Sea route.