UN criticises EU over response to migration crisis

Bloc urged to accept up to 200,000 extra refugees as states divided on how to act

 Migrants on the railway tracks near Tatabanya, 57km west of Budapest, Hungary. Photograph: Balazs Mohai/EPA/

Migrants on the railway tracks near Tatabanya, 57km west of Budapest, Hungary. Photograph: Balazs Mohai/EPA/

 

The UN has criticised the European Union’s response to the migration crisis, urging the bloc to accept up to 200,000 extra refugees amid continuing divisions among EU member states about how to deal with the migration crisis.

Calling for a mass relocation programme that would be mandatory for all member states, the UN’s high commissioner for refugees Antonio Guterres said the migrant crisis was a “defining moment” for Europe.

But in a sign that the EU was also preparing to toughen up border controls, a joint communiqué signed by the French, German and Italian governments emphasised the need for a “repatriation” policy as well as a relocation plan. Specifically, the European Commission is preparing a list of “safe countries” which will allow authorities to return migrants who are not deemed to be in need of asylum back to their home countries more quickly.

On Friday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that Ireland may take more than 1,800 migrants as part of a new EU relocation programme to be proposed next week. This would be in addition to the 600 migrants the government has agreed to accept as part of a European Union programme agreed in June.

Speaking in Luxembourg where EU foreign ministers gave political backing for a plan to target vessels used by people-smugglers in the Mediterranean, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said it was “too early” to put numbers on how many migrants Ireland will accept.

President Michael D Higgins said Ireland should be prepared to double the number of migrants and refugees originally envisaged by EU ministers. “We have to decide at certain times in our life to do what is right,” he said on RTE radio.

Budapest station

Meanwhile, Hungary found itself again at the epicentre of the continent’s migration crisis, as hundreds of migrants left Budapest station by foot and began to march towards the German border. Separately, a group of approximately 300 people left a migrant reception area near the Serbian border, leading police to give chase.

The Department of Justice confirmed on Friday that 72 Syrian refugees, comprising 15 families, are due to arrive in Ireland later this month.

The families will come from Lebanon where they have been living in refugee camps since fleeing the Syrian conflict. They will join four other refugees, also displaced by the Syrian conflict, who arrived in the country on August 24th .

They will be accommodated first in a hotel in Monasterevin, Co Kildare, where they are expected to stay for about four months before being moved to other parts of the country.

A Department spokesman said they would “undergo a language training and orientation programme” in Monasterevin while staying at the Hazel hotel which has been commissioned to provide temporary accommodation for 520 refugees between now and the end of next year.

“As one group leaves the centre, another group of refugees is expected to arrive. In total, by the end of 2016, 520 refugees displaced by the Syrian conflict will have been accommodated temporarily in the centre before moving on to permanent accommodation elsewhere.”

The 520 refugees are being admitted under Ireland’s resettlement programme, a separate programme to the EU relocation scheme under which Ireland will accept 600 refugees, a figure that is expected to rise to approximately 1800 if the European Commission’s new relocation proposal is adopted.

Programme refugees are recognised as refugees before they arrive in the State and do not have to go through the asylum process or live in direct provision centres. In the 15 years it has been in operation, the ‘programme resettlement’ scheme had seen 1,213 vulnerable persons from 27 different countries, settle in Ireland.