The United Nations refugee agency is losing patience with the EU. Speaking in Brussels, the UNHCR high commissioner has said the current crisis can be dealt with, but one has to want to be serious about doing so.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, had harsh words for the European Union (EU) after its interior ministers failed to find a solution for the distribution of refugees at a special meeting on Monday.
Currently, Europe is experiencing a "confusing and chaotic situation," with every nation doing what it wants at its own borders. "Refugees are confused, uncertain, scared and desperate," explained Guterres during talks in Brussels. "The situation is very worrying. And the refugees have to bear the brunt of it. They are suffering all over again."
Guterres also said that Hungary, which has in effect sealed its border with Serbia, has a legal obligation to offer refugees help. Europe needs a "Plan B" now, not more tedious negotiations on distribution plans. The UN high commissioner finds the postponement of a decision on the relocation of some 120,000 refugees until the next meeting of EU foreign ministers in October utterly senseless.
"You cannot wait until October, ask the European Parliament, and then the European Commission, and so on. We have an emergency on our hands," he said.
Syrians leaving underfunded UN camps in Turkey
The EU must set up reception centers, so-called "hot spots," in Greece and Italy as soon as possible, he said. Thus far, the European Commission has assumed that these hot spots would merely be working cooperatives between various EU agencies and local authorities.
"That won't be enough," said Guterres. "These initial processing facilities have to be able to house and take care of several thousand people a day." After registration, refugees then have to be relocated to other EU nations, said the high commissioner.
Guterres seemed relieved that the EU is now prepared to more adequately fund the huge Syrian refugee camps operating in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Funding shortages, especially at the UN's World Food Program, have led to food rations being cut by some 40 percent. Hence, masses of people are leaving the camps and trying desperately to reach Europe. "The shortages are the main driver of increases in the number of new refugee arrivals in Greece."
The UNHCR high commissioner said that it is imperative that the EU help Serbia as well, because many refugees are now stranded there due to Hungary blocking their ability to travel. Nonetheless, it is clear to see that the refugees will not be held in check for long. A UN diplomat in Brussels said, "Human traffickers are already offering alternative routes for ship passage from Greece to Italy."