UNHCR questions EU refugee strategy

2015-10-12 16:27
Thousands of Syrians streaming into the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. (File, AFP)

Thousands of Syrians streaming into the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Athens - The UN refugee agency chief questioned on Monday the European Union's strategy of building more camps in Turkey to stem the flow of refugees into Europe, saying it would be more effective if host countries allowed refugees to work.

The EU has pledged at least €1bn for Syrian refugees mostly in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and says it is willing to give Ankara funds so that Syrians can apply for asylum in Europe directly from camps on Turkish soil.

More than 2 million Syrians are in Turkey, which has some of the best equipped refugee camps ever built with facilities including schooling, healthcare and social services.

Yet only about 300 000 are sheltered in camps and many new arrivals are reluctant to move into them, fearing they will be trapped and unable to work or forge a new life for years.

"The overwhelming majority of Syrians are not living in camps, they are with the society," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told a news conference in Athens, when asked to comment on the EU's approach.

"An effective solidarity with the host countries, allowing for those countries also to provide refugees with the right to work and with the possibility of self-reliance, would be a very important contribution to reduce the flow [into Europe]."

The former Portuguese prime minister said authorities should be prepared for an increase in the numbers fleeing Syria due to an intensification of the war there, but it was impossible to forecast the dimension of the problem.

"We should be prepared for the situation to become more serious than what it is today," Guterres said after inspecting strained reception facilities in Greece, an entry point into the EU for over 400 000 migrants and refugees this year.

Overcrowded dinghies

He also told Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras he was impressed by the solidarity shown to refugees by Greek people and said they deserved stronger European financial and practical support.

He urged the EU to take in more refugees directly from camps in Jordan and Turkey as part of resettlement programmes as a way to stop them from risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in overcrowded rubber dinghies.

The UNHCR says more than 3 000 have died this year trying to cross from Turkey. Several thousand more have drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach Italy from North Africa.

Greece says its coastguard has rescued more than 70 000 people at sea in the last seven months.

"We need to strongly increase resettlement from Turkey ... We need to substantially increase the number of opportunities for people to come to Europe legally," Guterres said.

"It's impossible not to be shocked when we see those boats which are manufactured just for this crossing, very fragile. I have never seen boats as fragile as those I have seen in Lesbos, [which] are destroyed immediately afterwards. This is horrible."

Read more on:    unhcr  |  syria  |  refugees  |  migrants

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


WATCH: Man films himself going down water slide upside down as things go very wrong…

What is at first an exciting tummy-turning adventure stunt, quickly turns into a scarily bad idea caught on camera. Take a look:


You won't want to miss...

WATCH: Conor McGregor: Notorious the trailer
Best date night restaurants in South Africa
WATCH: Ryan Reynolds offers fans a free tattoo in new Deadpool 2 teaser
Should you date your co-worker?
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.