UN to Europe: Guarantee to relocate 200,000 refugees
UNHCR spokeswoman calls for EU-led refugee mega-reception centres to be established in Greece, Italy and Hungary.
The United Nations has called on European states to guarantee relocation for 200,000 refugees, as record numbers flee to the continent from war-torn nations.
UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that Europe is a “wealthy” continent that could manage the numbers of people coming in.
The UN official said European Union countries needed to form a plan where it was mandatory for member states to accept refugees.
“There should be EU-led mega-reception centres established in Greece, in Italy and also in Hungary – whereby the people arriving could go to these centres and be received in decent humane conditions, and apply for asylum” Fleming said.
She added that under the current system, countries on Europe’s frontier were being “overburdened”.
At an earlier press briefing, Fleming said there was not a “German solution to a European problem”, in reference to the leading role taken by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in ending the crisis.
“Those can only work if there is a guaranteed relocation system whereby European countries saying yes will take X number. We believe it should be 200,000, that’s the number we believe need relocation in Europe countries.”
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Vienna, said many refugees arriving there were worried about new measures that would restrict their movement.
“Even the Austrian government at this point doesn’t have a clear-cut path ahead… We spoke to a member of the interior ministry and quite clearly the government is struggling to come up with a coherent policy to stay within EU rules,” Jamjoom said.
A record 7,000 Syrian refugees arrived in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Monday, while some 30,000 are on Greek islands, including 20,000 on Lesbos, according to the UN.
Fleming’s comments came as EU President Donald Tusk warned that the refugee crisis affecting Europe was part of an “exodus” from war-torn countries that could last years.
Tusk said the current movement of people mainly from the Middle East would be a “problem for many years to come”.
“The present wave of migration is not a one-time incident but the beginning of a real exodus,” the EU president said addressing a thinktank in Brussels on Monday.
European leaders are scrambling for solutions as bloody conflicts in mainly Syria and Iraq send hundreds of thousands of refugees on dangerous voyages through the Balkans and across the Mediterranean.
“Let us have no illusions that we have a silver bullet to reverse the situation,” he said.
Tusk, who represents the bloc’s leaders, urged for pragmatism and said member states must put aside their deep differences in facing the crisis.
OPINION: Europe’s policy did not kill Aylan Kurdi
One of the flashpoints of the crisis is Hungary, where tens of thousands of refugees seek to transit through on their way to wealthier EU states.
On Monday night, hundreds of angry and frustrated asylum seekers broke through police lines near Hungary’s southern border with Serbia and began marching north towards Budapest.
Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Roszke in Hungary, spoke to several refugees who said they had been poorly treated and did not have access to adequate shelter or sanitation.
One refugee said she had been beaten with a stick, while another pleaded with authorities to help his sick child.
RELATED: Europe’s light bulb moment?
The five-year-old, who was suffering from heat exhaustion and fever, was eventually helped by Hungarian medical teams and put on a drip, Simmons said.
Fresh clashes also erupted between police and refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos Monday night, which authorities said was “on the verge of explosion”.
A number of European countries have announced they will be taking in part of the influx of people wanting to escape the conflicts in the Middle East.
French President Francois Hollande said his country would take in 24,000 refugees over the next two years.
The United States government said it was considering a range of approaches in response to the crisis.