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Europe

Grandi: 'If Europe organizes itself, it can cope'

At the Munich Security Conference, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told DW that the strains of displacement are felt by refugees - not just by Europe. He's cautiously optimistic about peace for Syria.

DW: Will the peace deal negotiated for Syria facilitate humanitarian aid to people within the country?

Filippo Grandi: I don't think that we are at a peace deal stage yet. That was the beginning of a process, if I understand correctly, and the first focus was to lift all the sieges and deliver humanitarian assistance to all areas in Syria that have been hard to reach or impossible to reach. This was discussed on Thursday, and discussed further in Geneva in the following days.

My understanding is that we, the humanitarian agencies, are ready to deliver anywhere in 24 hours, but we are still expecting responses from the parties of the conflict. And we are still worried about the security situation in some of those areas. So, no start yet, but some progress.

So the Syrian government and the rebel groups have not agreed to that which is a precondition for the deal to start?

Filippo Grandi, UNHCR

Filippo Grandi became UN high commissioner for refugees at the beginning of the year

I know that all the requests for access have been presented, especially to four areas if I understand correctly. We haven't got a response yet. We must wait. In our experience, these are complex issues, but we cannot wait much longer. People cannot wait, because their lives are at risk.

How hopeful are you that this will happen?

I think that for the first time, we have seen a very strong international commitment towards that. I hope it works.

Mass displacement is putting a big strain on Europe - on the EU, on many countries, including Germany, for example, which has taken in a large number of refugees. How long do you think Europe can cope with the current stream of refugees?

If Europe organizes itself, it can cope. That is my firm conviction. But the more pertinent question will be: For how long will this flow will go on? As far as Syrians are concerned - that's about half the entire number of people - it will continue until there is peace in Syria. Until they make peace, people will inevitably try to move on.

Then, of course, we are working on many other things: more assistance to neighboring countries, resettlement, and other legal pathways directly into Europe from those countries in order to diminish the chaos and diminish the pressure. The fundamental issue remains (a) stop (to) the fighting - a ceasefire throughout the country, and then durable peace.

Filippo Grandi is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. He began his five-year term on January 1, 2016.

The interview was conducted by Michael Knigge.

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