Aid organisations slam European divisions on refugees

4th November 2015, Comments 0 comments

International aid organisations issued an urgent new appeal to Western nations Wednesday to do more to help refugees, and blasted a lack of European solidarity on the issue.

Speaking to reporters after talks with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin, the head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), Antonio Guterres, urged EU states to share the burden more fairly and boost funding for his organisation.

"It is absolutely essential that all members of the European Union follow the example of Germany," he said, referring both to Berlin's more open policy toward asylum seekers and its financial pledges.

"This is not a German crisis, it is a European crisis... This became a moral obligation of us all when we see the tragedies that are taking place in the Aegean," he said, with migrant deaths piling up by the day.

Steinmeier hosted the meeting which also included the heads of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), William Swing, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Elhadj As Sy, and the special representative of the UN Secretary-General for international migration and development, Peter Sutherland.

"I would describe the state of the European response as being disappointing in terms of the divisions it has exposed," Sutherland, a former European Commissioner and an architect of the single EU market, said.

Swing blamed a lack of political will in Europe amid the biggest influx of migrants and refugees since World War II.

"We've determined today at our meeting that it is fully within our capacity to deal with this challenge," he said.

Steinmeier said Germany would boost its own funding for UN agencies helping refugees by 75 million euros ($81 million), following a 100-million-euro commitment made in September during the UN General Assembly debate.

The UNHCR, which has launched a special funding campaign to respond to the crisis, has estimated total financial needs at $128 million (118 million euros) from last June to December 2016.

Germany, which expects up to one million asylum seekers, this year, has called on its EU partners for a fairer distribution of people, with few concrete results.

© 2015 AFP

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