Euro­pean mi­grant cri­sis in spotlight at the UN


Europe’s mi­grant cri­sis was set to be in fo­cus at the United Na­tions on Wed­nes­day with Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon seek­ing to muster a global re­sponse to the ex­o­dus of vast num­bers of peo­ple from Syria and else­where.

The U.N. chief opened the Gen­eral Assem­bly in New York this week with a call to Europe “to do more” and ap­peal­ing to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to tackle the source of the prob­lem.

“We should not be build­ing fences or walls, but above all we must look at root causes, in coun­tries of ori­gin,” said Ban, due later Wed­nes­day to host a meet­ing of around 70 coun­tries on the cri­sis in New York.

Syria’s four years of civil war — another hot topic in New York this week — has left more than 240,000 peo­ple dead. More than four mil­lion have left the coun­try, and mil­lions more are in­ter­nally dis­placed.

Ac­cord­ing to the latest fig­ures from the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) on Wed­nes­day, Syr­i­ans made up 55 per­cent of the 521,000 mi­grants to have crossed the Mediter­ranean bound for Europe this year to date.

Many oth­ers come from Iraq — which, like Syria, has seen Is­lamic State ex­trem­ists over­run mas­sive ar­eas — from Afghanistan and other hotspots. Nearly 3,000 died or went miss­ing try­ing in the of­ten treach­er­ous cross­ing.

In the latest re­minder of the dan­gers, Greek po­lice said Wed­nes­day that a woman and a child drowned off the is­land of Les­bos af­ter their boat sank, although 45 oth­ers were res­cued.

An Eritrean man was also killed by a train near the en­trance to the Chan­nel Tun­nel in France near Calais — where some 3,000 mi­grants are camped — early Wed­nes­day, an of­fi­cial said, the 13th such death there since June.

The huge in­flux, Europe’s big­gest since World War II, has ex­posed deep rifts in the con­ti­nent about where the new­com­ers should go and what should be done to stem the flow.

Plans to share out 160,000 mi­grants through­out the 28-na­tion EU us­ing manda­tory quo­tas are op­posed by sev­eral mem­ber states, and mooted “hot spots” on Europe’s borders are con­tro­ver­sial.

Re­flect­ing the scale of the prob­lem, the G7 group of lead­ing economies and Gulf states pledged US$1.8 bil­lion in fund­ing Tues­day for U.N. aid agen­cies help­ing Syr­ian refugees, while Ja­pan com­mit-

ted US$1.5 bil­lion.

Hard-line Hungary

The first des­ti­na­tion for many cross­ing the Med — al­most 390,000, the UNHCR says — is Greece. Mostly the mi­grants then leave and travel up through the western Balkans hop­ing to make it to richer places like Ger­many or Swe­den.

A par­tic­u­lar source of EU fric­tion is Hungary, which lies at the end of this Balkans route. It has sealed its bor­der with Ser­bia and is threat­en­ing to fol­low suit with Croa­tia, cur­rently the main cross­ing point.

Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Or­ban says that with Greece — and the EU as a whole — fail­ing to do its job and Ger­many en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to keep com­ing, Bu­dapest has lit­tle op­tion.

He has also said that the in­flux of Mus­lims poses a threat to “Chris­tian” Europe and that the new ar­rivals, be­cause they left the rel­a­tive safety of camps out­side Syria, are not refugees but eco­nomic mi­grants.

In mid- Septem­ber Hun­gar­ian riot po­lice fired tear gas and wa­ter cannon at mi­grants try­ing to break through the bor­der and throw­ing stones and other ob­jects, clashes that Ban said “shocked” him.

On the eve of Wed­nes­day’s talks, Hungary’s for­eign min­is­ter urged the U.N. to set global quo­tas on ac­cept­ing mi­grants, say­ing it was un­fair for Europe to take so many.

“We sug­gest that all ma­jor play­ers should bear some bur­den. We should in­tro­duce some world quo­tas,” Peter Sz­i­j­jarto told re­porters.

More than 6,600 peo­ple en­tered Hungary on Tues­day, mostly from Croa­tia, po­lice said. Buses were tak­ing them on­wards to the Aus­trian bor­der, while work­ers were con­struct­ing two new “transit zones,” AFP re­porters said. Les­bos Drown­ing

A mi­grant woman and a child drowned off the Greek is­land of Les­bos af­ter their boat sank, po­lice said Wed­nes­day, adding 45 other pas­sen­gers had been res­cued.

The Greek har­bour po­lice did not give the vic­tims’ ages or na­tion­al­i­ties and it was not clear if the two were re­lated.

Ac­cord­ing to tes­ti­mony from the sur­vivors, 49 peo­ple were on board the dinghy when it cap­sized in the Aegean Sea off the north­ern coast of Les­bos.

Twenty-year-old Nilofa Ghonami, an Ira­nian- born Afghan woman, told AFP that the boat they were sail­ing in — which was only sup­posed to hold 14 peo­ple — had bro­ken in half.

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