EU taking logistical and financial steps to prepare for large increase in Syrian refugees
Preparations are under way to prepare for a substantial increase of refugees escaping into the European Union from Syria, where the conflict has widened and there is little hope of any early cessation.
EU commissioner for home affairs Cecilia Malmström and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter told a press conference last night that the EU was expecting a bigger influx of refugees and were taking financial and logistical steps to prepare for that eventuality.
They were speaking at the conclusion of the first day of a two-day informal meeting of home affairs and justice ministers from the 27 EU states at Dublin Castle yesterday.
As well as a discussion on Syria, the ministers were also given an update on the unfolding situation in Algeria. Mr Shatter said he had been advised that the Irish hostage was safe but there had been conflicting reports on the fate of other hostages. He said he did not wish to comment on their circumstances until more details were known. He said there was evidence that those who had taken the hostages were “engaged in fundamental terrorism” and also associated with a group that was involved in criminal activities.
On Syria, Mr Shatter said the Assad regime was targeting its own population and “engaged in murder and mayhem”. A discussion had taken place about the wider security and terrorist risks associated with the conflict, said. He agreed with Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore that the international criminal court had a role in dealing with those involved with atrocities.
“Those engaged from the side of the regime and those engaged in combating the regime have obligations in respect human rights.”
He said it did not look in the short-term that the conflict was going to end and that the EU’s primary role was to deal with the refugee crisis.
Ms Malmström said that as regards Syria, the EU was focusing on the humanitarian situation and had already approved spending of €360 million for the refugee camps. The budget was being increased and the EU was also “preparing for a possible bigger influx of people into the EU”.
This included economic and logistical planning and other advance preparations focused on the areas where most refugees arrived.
There are 630,000 Syrian refugees mostly in surrounding countries but at present only 25,000 are in EU countries.
Other issues that were discussed by ministers included the manner in which migration policies could be adapted to foster growth in the EU, by means of attracting people to Europe with skill sets that were in short supply.
Ministers also spoke about the manner in which the EU collectively could tackle organised crime and white collar crime in a better way.
Both Ms Malmström and Mr Shatter pointed to the high unemployment rate in Europe but added that notwithstanding that there were still sectors where there were skill shortages. The long-term response would be educational, said Mr Shatter, but in the shorter term the EU needed to attract skilled and seasonal workers, some of whom would be employment creators.