Refugee flow into Europe 'not easing'

A man perched on a barrier addressing refugees waiting to enter Croatia at the border town of Berkasovo, Serbia, yesterday. The arrival of refugees in Europe, many abandoning refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan or Lebanon after three years or more, has s
A man perched on a barrier addressing refugees waiting to enter Croatia at the border town of Berkasovo, Serbia, yesterday. The arrival of refugees in Europe, many abandoning refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan or Lebanon after three years or more, has stirred sharp disagreement between countries on how to "process" and accommodate them.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

With 8,000 arrivals daily, issues facing govts may turn out to be only tip of the iceberg: UN

GENEVA • The United Nations has said it could see no easing of the flow of refugees into Europe, with 8,000 arrivals daily, and that the problems now facing governments may turn out to be only "the tip of the iceberg".

Hungary, which lies in the path of the largest migration wave Europe has seen since World War II, said it was seeking support to halt an influx from Croatia after sealing its border with Serbia by building a 3.5m-tall steel fence.

Mr Amin Awad, regional refugee coordinator for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Geneva that its past warnings on the scale of the problem had not been taken seriously.

"I don't see it abating. I don't see it stopping. If anything, it gives an indication perhaps that this is the tip of the iceberg," he said yesterday.

Dr Dominik Bartsch, the UN's deputy humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, said 10 million people were expected to need humanitarian support by the end of the year in that country, where 3.2 million were already displaced.

He said the UN was planning for the displacement of 500,000 people from the Iraqi city of Mosul if Iraqi forces launch an attempt to recapture it from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group.

European Union leaders have pledged at least €1 billion (S$1.6 billion) for Syrian refugees in the Middle East and closer cooperation to stem migrant flows into Europe at a summit described as less tense than feared after weeks of feuding.

The greater number of asylum seekers reaching Europe, many on flimsy dinghies crossing the Mediterranean or on hazardous journeys hidden in trucks, are from Syria and Iraq. Others are from Afghanistan, Pakistan and African countries including Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia.

The German Interior Ministry said that around a third of asylum seekers arriving in Germany who claim to be from Syria were probably not actually from that country, though spokesman Tobias Plate said there were no precise statistics.

The arrival of the refugees, many abandoning refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan or Lebanon after three years or more, has stirred sharp disagreement between countries on how to "process" and accommodate them. While countries such as Germany have proven more welcoming, Eastern European nations have resisted plans for quotas to disperse the refugees.

Right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in Vienna that after the construction of a steel fence to stop refugees from entering from Serbia, migrants were now entering via Greece and the Balkans from Croatia.

The flow will continue, Mr Orban said, adding that the main question was how it could be stopped on the Croatian border.

For now, thousands of migrants arriving on the Croatian-Hungarian border are shipped every day to the Austrian border. Mr Orban said Hungary would make a decision about sealing off its border with Croatia only after consultations to gather support for the move.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2015, with the headline 'Refugee flow into Europe 'not easing''. Print Edition | Subscribe