GENEVA—The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has called on the European Union to admit up to 200,000 refugees for a “mass relocation program” to ease the flood of migrants appearing at EU borders looking for shelter.
Antonio Guterres released a statement Friday asking the EU to implement a program that would require participation of all European Union states to help refugees with a valid need for protection.
Guterres said the refugee crisis will be a “defining moment” for the European Union. He said an EU divided on the issue will benefit only smugglers and traffickers.
UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming says conditions are worsening.
“They are losing hope to be able to go home. They have no ability to restart their lives in the neighboring countries in any meaningful way – many are making the decision now to go to Europe,” she told VOA.
Fleming said UNHCR is proposing that large reception centers be set up in Greece, Italy, and Hungary where people could be registered and have their asylum claims processed quickly. She said these centers would be run by the European Union with the support of the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration.
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday that Britain will accept “thousands more” refugees from Syria, adding to the 5,000 it has already agreed to. Cameron said the decision was a response to “the scale of the crisis and the suffering of people,” making the announcement after a meeting in Lisbon with the Portuguese prime minister.
Refusal to discharge
Meanwhile, in the Hungarian city of Bicske, hundreds of refugees are refusing to get off a train they boarded in Budapest hoping to travel to Germany, which has announced it will take up to 800,000 applications for refugee status.
Hungarian authorities insist they must register the migrants according to EU regulations.
Officials in Bicske say only about 16 people have exited the train voluntarily to be registered at a refugee camp, while hundreds of others remain on the train, chanting “no camp” and “Germany, Germany.”
Elsewhere in Hungary, officials say about 300 migrants have broken out of a reception camp at Roszke, near the Serbian border. The French news agency says police are working to apprehend them.
And at least 30 migrants are feared to have drowned off the coast of Libya after their boat began to capsize, according to the International Organization for Migration Friday. In a statement, a spokesman told reporters some 91 migrants were rescued after their inflatable boat began to sink, causing a panic and tipping some people out of the boat. Rescue attempts are under way.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq have been taking desperate steps since January to reach the European Union, trying to escape war and poverty for safety and opportunity.
Greece and Italy have been the first stops for many of the migrants after making the dangerous crossing over the Mediterranean.
French, German and Italian leaders said Thursday there must be a compulsory and fair distribution of refugees across the EU.
European Parliament President Martin Schultz said EU member states, with a population of over 500 million, could absorb large numbers of refugees without any problem, as long as arriving migrants are not concentrated in only a few countries.
Syrian toddler repatriated
In Kobani, Syria, the father of a boy whose image came to symbolize the refugee crisis this week buried his wife and two sons who died in a capsized boat on the journey from Turkey to Greece.
The heartbreaking photograph of Abdullah Kurdi’s three-year-old son Alan, a Syrian Kurd, was shared in media worldwide after he was found lifeless on a Turkish beach. It made the toddler an instant poster boy for the refugee crisis caused by the Syrian war.
The boy’s name has been spelled as Aylan by most media outlets but VOA’s Kurdish service spoke to the boy’s uncle who explained that in Kurdish, his name is spelled Alan.
The 28-member EU plans to hold emergency talks on the refugee issue on September 14.