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UN says 'much more required' to cope with migrant crisis

August 29, 2015

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appealed to governments to step up their response to Europe's migrant crisis. He also announced a special UN General Assembly meeting to discuss the status of refugees in Europe.

Ban Ki-moon
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Saber

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he would convene a meeting during the UN General Assembly devoted to the escalating influx of refugees in Europe. The event was scheduled for September 30.

"This is a human tragedy that requires a determined collective political response," Ban said in a statement following the latest reports of migrant deaths in Europe.

"It is a crisis of solidarity, not a crisis of numbers."

Appeal to step up response

In a rare statement issued under his own name and not a spokesman, the UN Secretary-General said he was "horrified and heartbroken" by the latest deaths and stressed that a "large majority" of people undertaking such dangerous journeys were refugees, who had the right to protection and asylum.

Alarmed by the growing humanitarian disaster, the UN chief urged countries "in Europe and elsewhere to prove their compassion and do much more to bring an end to the crisis."

"I appeal to all governments involved to provide comprehensive responses, expand safe and legal channels of migration and act with humanity, compassion and in accordance with their international obligations," he said.

Police officers move a coffin with one of the victims found in an abandoned truck in Austria
The discovery of more than 70 corpses in an abandoned truck in Austria moved UN chief Ban Ki-moon to issue a rare personal statement on Europe's refugee crisisImage: Reuters/H.P. Bader

Ban particularly condemned recent migrant tragedies including the grim discovery of more than 70 corpses in an abandoned truck on the Austrian-Hungarian border as well as highlighting hundreds of others who drowned while crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

"The Mediterranean Sea continues to be a death trap for refugees and migrants," Ban stressed in a statement.

The UN Secretary-General also appealed to governments to step up their response to the migrant crisis while praising leaders and communities, which took action to cope with the flow of migrants.

Unclear prospects

But whether Ban's initiative might turn into a lasting success remains uncertain.

Earlier this year, EU member states rejected commission proposals for a mandatory redistribution of refugees across the bloc and failed to meet proposed targets for the voluntary uptake of asylum seekers.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, ruled out holding an early summit of EU leaders on the refugee crisis.

A migrant boat off the coast of Libya en route to Europe
More than 300,000 refugees have tried to reach Europe this yearImage: Reuters/D. Zammit Lupi

"There are very intensive efforts underway to deal with this theme," she said, adding that EU leaders were ready to meet to consider the refugee issue, but the preparatory work needed to be completed first.

Migration issues will also top the schedule next week at a two-day meeting of all 28 EU commissioners hosted by commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who plans to discuss a long-term "migration agenda", which national leaders had endorsed in general terms in June. However, disagreements about quotas among EU nations remained.

Humanitarian crisis continues

Hungarian authorities have detained three men in relation to the discovery of 71 bodies in a truck near the Austrian-Hungarian border.

Those arrested included a Hungarian-Lebanese national, who owned the truck, and two other men - one Bulgarian and one Hungarian - who were driving the vehicle. Four other people had also been detained, but were later released.

Abandoned truck in Austria with a forensic team on location
Overland routes appear to be gaining popularity with human traffickers, costing more than 70 lives in Austria this weekImage: Reuters/H-P Bader

The dead were believed to be Syrian asylum seekers. Austrian police said Friday that they had possibly died of suffocation. An ongoing investigation was expected to reveal further details.

The incident marked the latest in a series of migration-related tragedies this summer, including the capsizing of many boats, as tens of thousands of people tried to flee war, violence and poverty in the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

ss/lw (dpa, AFP, AP)

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