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EU leadership 'crucial' in dealing with migration, says UN refugee chief

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UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, left, walks with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell prior to a meeting at the EEAS building in Brussels, Tuesday, May 11,
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, left, walks with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell prior to a meeting at the EEAS building in Brussels, Tuesday, May 11,   -   Copyright  Stephanie Lecocq/AP
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European Union leadership is key if migration into the bloc is to be dealt with effectively, according to the United Nations' refugee chief.

Filippo Grandi was meeting with the EU's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on Tuesday as part of a three-day trip to Brussels, where he said the bloc plays a "crucial role in supporting conflict resolution and giving humanitarian assistance to those impacted" by forced displacement around the world.

Borrell also emphasised the EU’s commitment to addressing forced displacement and protecting those in need, which he says is "strongly reflected" in the EU’s latest migration pact, which was proposed by the European Commission last year.

The New Pact on Migration and Asylum aims to build confidence on the issue by striking a balance between responsibility and solidarity, which critics argue has not been there previously, after years of disagreement between member states.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said last year that the new pact would strike a "reasonable balance" with all member states sharing the "benefits" and "burdens".

A key aspect of the proposal allows EU countries that have been reluctant to take in migrants — such as Poland, Hungary and Austria — to contribute by returning migrants who don't qualify for asylum or by helping with logistical support at the bloc's borders.

Grandi met with home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson on Monday too, where she also stressed there must be more European solidarity when relocating refugees, after the Italian island of Lampedusa saw thousands of migrants arrive on boats over the weekend.

Sakia Bricmont, a Belgian Green MEP, says the EU must go further.

"The EU needs to show solidarity and to organise the relocation of migrants throughout Europe and that all the member states really and effectively take their share, but also that the EU finances this relocation and not only return policies, illegal pushbacks, but also to the externalisation of its migration policies," Bricmont told Euronews.

But not everyone in the European Parliament agrees.

Jérôme Riviere, a French MEP and member of Marine Le Pen's far-right political party National Rally, says that the EU must be fair, but firm when dealing with migrants attempting to come to Europe.

"We have to say, look, Europe has a lot of problems to tackle, especially at the end of this covid crisis," Riviere told Euronews. "And we are telling very kindly to these people, you cannot come in illegally. And if you want to come in illegally, there is no way you will ever find a legal way in our country. This is mainly how Australia has solved its problem. Anybody coming illegally has zero chance of ever being legalised."

The European Commission's latest migration proposal is still yet to be agreed upon by the European institutions.