EU’s refugee relocation scheme ‘not enough,’ says UNHCR chief

EU’s refugee relocation scheme ‘not enough,’ says UNHCR chief

The European Union's current relocation scheme for refugees is “not enough” to address the scope of the problem, the head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Monday.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said the current EU scheme to share out 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece over the next two years had to be broadened and “more legal opportunities” had to be provided to exiles.

“You cannot have a technocratic approach to relocation,” he told a news conference in Athens.

“Without a human approach to relocation, this process could fail,” he warned.

Guterres had just completed a three-day visit to Greece, where he visited registration camps in Athens and on the island of Lesbos, one of the main landing points for migrants fleeing war and misery in the Middle East and Asia across the Aegean Sea from Turkey.

Dozens have died in the perilous crossing in flimsy boats in the past month alone.

Over 600,000 people have arrived in Europe this year and with winter looming, the rate seems to be increasing.

The International Organization for Migration said Friday that there had been a sharp increase in the number of migrants arriving in Greece, to some 7,000 a day, up from 4,500 per day at the end of September.

Only Syrians, Iraqis and Eritreans are currently eligible for resettlement under the EU relocation programme.

Afghans, whose country is also in conflict, are excluded.

Guterres on Monday said the scheme remained vulnerable to “ethnic or religious discrimination,” with Slovakia and Cyprus already declaring themselves a preference for Christian refugees.

Such statements “can only support the propaganda of IS (Islamic State) or other groups,” the former Portuguese prime minister warned.

Guterres said what was needed was “a mechanism that is humane, that is based on dialogue, that is based on persuasion. That is not yet in place,” he said.

“You cannot just look into people and say 'you go to Germany, you go to Sweden, you go to Romania, you go to Portugal, you go to Spain' without having a process of information of taking into account the interests, for instance family, links, preferences,” he added.

The UNHCR said it was already aware of a refugee family that turned down an offer to relocate to either Lithuania, Finland or Luxembourg.

“I think that nobody is yet fully prepared for a process that is new, that was never tested in the European Union context and in which you need a cooperation of all European entities to happen,” Guterres said.

Brussels is now taking a tougher stance by tightening border controls and reducing incentives for people to come to the continent.

Registration hotspots in Greece and Italy, agreed by EU leaders at a summit last month, are aimed at separating the new arrivals between bona fide refugees and economic migrants at their first entry point into the bloc.


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