Migrant numbers coming into Europe set to increase, says expert

Co-ordinated European action now imperative to deal with the issue, advises envoy

Pierre Vimont said the Middle East had had to cope with a refugee crisis long before the current conflict in Syria. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

Pierre Vimont said the Middle East had had to cope with a refugee crisis long before the current conflict in Syria. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

 

The number of migrants coming into Europe from the Middle East and Africa is going to increase rather than diminish in the years ahead, according to one of the top EU officials dealing with the issue.

Pierre Vimont, the special envoy of European Council president Donald Tusk on the migration issue, told the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin yesterday that co-ordinated European action was now imperative to deal with the issue.

He said the issue of migration was a complex one. Political refugees comprised one part of the equation but economic migration was a far bigger issue in the long term.

“Structural migration is here to stay,” said Mr Vimont. “We won’t be able to stop them and we can’t act as if we do not have an obligation to deal with them.”

Co-ordinated response

Mr Vimont said migration was not a new problem in Europe or elsewhere but what made it different was its sheer magnitude.

Current conflict

Mr Vimont also pointed out there were huge refugee problems in Africa with Ethiopia and Kenya having to deal with massive numbers fleeing from Somalia. “While there has been amazement in Europe at the scale of the crisis it has been building for a long time but the pace has been accelerating.”

He said there were two major migration routes into Europe. One was from the Middle East through Turkey and into the EU through Greece.

The other route was from Africa across the Mediterranean to Italy or Malta. Some were political refugees but the bulk of them were economic migrants. “This is a more long term structural migration and it is here to stay,” he said.