Europe must do more to help Syrians escape the country’s brutal civil war, says the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
In an interview with euronews on Thursday, António Guterres called for EU countries to accept more refugees to help take the burden off Syria’s neighbours.
“I think it is important that Europe does more in offering Syrians more opportunities to come safely to Europe. That means resettlement, that means humanitarian admission, more flexible visa policies in different areas, fair reunification programs (for families). If you want to reduce the opportunities for (people) smugglers and traffickers, we need to create much more legal avenues for Syrians to reach Europe safety,” said Guterres.
But his comments come despite a 45 percent rise in asylum claims to Western countries in just one year. More than 860,000 people made applications in 2014, according to UNHCR figures.
Guterres was in Brussels to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and activists working on behalf of refugees.
JunckerEU</a> holds working lunch with UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres <a href="http://t.co/XZ3ygH9mgU">pic.twitter.com/XZ3ygH9mgU</a></p>— Natasha Bertaud (NatashaBertaud) April 9, 2015
Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan have been swamped with as many at 4 million Syrians, a situation which continues to deteriorate.
On Thursday, Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament visited the small Turkish town of Kilis, which has more refugees than locals.
“Sometimes I feel ashamed, when i see how the question of refugees is being discussed in our countries, when just 30,000 or 40,000 refugees are arriving in a country of 82 million while here you have 120,000 refugees in a town of 100,000 inhabitants, and when i see how they are being taken care of, I have to take my hat off to them.”
In January, Amnesty International revealed that Britain had taken in just 143 Syrians against 30,000 by Germany.
But despite their suffering, the plight of refugees is increasingly falling on deaf ears as politicians face tough questions from their electorates, for whom immigration is still a hot topic.