UNHCR warns that time is running out for Europe to resolve refugee emergency

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Yesterday's mayhem on the Serbian border with Croatia, which has since closed some entry points, and Wednesday's dramatic situation on the Hungarian border demonstrate the chaos and confusion being caused by the absence of a coherent and united response to Europe's refugee situation.

With more than 442,440 refugees and migrants having arrived via the Mediterranean so far this year, some 2,921 deaths, and 4000 people arriving on the Greek islands daily, the crisis is growing and being pushed from one country to another without solution. The suffering and risks for thousands of refugees and migrants are meanwhile increasing as uncertainty and a lack of information fuels desperation, raises the likelihood of further incidents, and stokes hostility towards people who have fled persecution and conflict and are in need of help. This environment is fertile ground for people-smugglers and others seeking to prey on this vulnerable population.

Against the context of these events UNHCR believes Thursday's decision of the European Parliament to back plans for the relocation of an additional 120,000 people to all countries of the European Union deserves applause. The Extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on 22 September, and the European Council meeting that has been called for 23rd of September will now be crucially important for coming to agreement. These occasions may be the last opportunity for a positive, united and coherent European response to this crisis.

UNHCR recognizes that Europe is struggling to deal with this situation, and commends the countries and their citizens that have shown willingness to resettle refugees and respond positively to a situation which although challenging is manageable, provided that Europe is united in contributing to an effective response.

UNHCR has this week proposed a number of measures towards the wider goal of helping Europe to collectively resolve this situation, namely:

- The immediate creation of facilities in Greece to receive, assist, register and screen people arriving.

- The immediate start of a process, from Greece and from existing centers in Italy, for the relocation of 40,000 refugees agreed to by the Council to participating EU countries. This should be expanded by additional voluntary pledges by EU states against the new proposals of the European Commission.

- An emergency package from the EU to Serbia to establish a similar capacity to properly assist, register and relocate people to other European countries.

- In parallel, UNHCR urges that there be a substantial increase in opportunities for Syrian refugees hosted in neighboring countries to Syria to access legal channels to the EU including enhanced resettlement and humanitarian admission, family reunification and humanitarian and student visas.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In London, Andrej Mahecic on mobile +44 78 8023 0985
  • In Tovarnik, Babar Baloch on mobile +36 30 530 9633
  • In Vienna, Ruth Schoeffl on mobile +43 699 1459 5307
  • In Belgrade, Melita Sunjic on mobile +381 63 343 134
  • In Rome, Carlotta Sami, on mobile +39 335 679 47 46
  • In Paris, Celine Schmitt on mobile + 33 6 23 16 11 78
  • In Athens, Ketty Kehayioylou on mobile +30 694 02 77 485
  • In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • In Geneva, Melissa Fleming on office no. +41 22 739 7965

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