EU’s Tusk warns of long-term refugee ‘exodus’

President of the European Council Donald Tusk warns of current influx of people mainly from war-torn countries likely to be problem for many years to come

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Hungarian policeman observes refugees as they wait for buses at a collection point in the village of Roszke

Updated Sep 9, 2015

President of the European Council Donald Tusk said "The present wave of migration is not a one-time incident but the beginning of a real exodus," on Monday in Brussels.  

He warned that the current wave of influx from Middle East affecting Europe would escalate as wars in Syria and Iraq continue and the refugee problem could last years.

According to the United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees, 256,458 migrants are now in Greece, including 20,000 in Lesbos alone. Worldwide displacement is the highest ever recorded. As of 2015 more than 59 million people have been forced to flee their homes. The report says that one in every 122 people worldwide is now either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum.

Tusk stated that being pragmatic and taking action in solidarity would be the best solution to the crisis.

"Let us have no illusions that we have a silver bullet to reverse the situation," he said.

Demetris Papademetriou, President of Migration Policy Institute Europe stated in an interview with TRT World that EU countries have to reach an agreement on the refugee crisis. He said Europe should find a way to cope with the crisis, which is only a beginning, by receiving refugees in an orderly way and adjucate or at least process their initial claims.

“This crisis will be an example and test us to political leadership of Frau Merkel and also president Hollande,”  he added, with thousands of people fleeing to Germany and France.

On Monday, hundreds of refugees broke through police lines on Hungary’s border and started walking towards Serbia’s capital Budapest. The police used pepper gas as refugees broke out of a holding centre and marched down towards the capital.

Hungary is the most used trasit country by refugees to reach Germany and other European countries to seek asylum.  

Over the weekend, it eased the passage of 20,000 refugees making their way tp Austria and Germany on Friday on foot.

On Monday, Hungary’s Defence Minister Csaba Hende announced his resignation after a national council meeting held to discuss the refugee influx.

Shortly after Donald Tusk’s statement, UNHCH spokeswomen Melissa Fleming called on Europe to agree to relocate a certain number refugees, saying that it is wealthy enough to manage the influx of refugees coming in. Talking to Al-Jazeera, she said Germany’s leading role in coping with the refugee problem is not enough to control the problem.

“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." she told Flemming.

Meanwhile, the Greek government and UNHCR agency have brought extra staff and ships to the Greek island of Lesbos as fresh clashes erupted between police and 2,500 mainly Syrian refugees on Monday night.

Greek Interior Minister Yiannis Mouzalas told To Vima radio on Monday that the situation was on the verge of explosion. Police struggled to stop the crowd trying to reach the ferry travelling to Athens.

Some countries have announced that they will accept a number of people forced to flee from their homes.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have announced their plan to act together to cope with the crisis.

Merkel announced that the country will accept any Syrian refugees and allow them to apply for asylum and invited other countries to share the burden of the crisis.

French President Francois Hollande also said France would take in 24,000 refugees over the next two years.

After international pressure was placed on the UK, President David Cameron announced that Britain will act with “head and heart” and accept 20,000 Syrian refugees. He said Britain will resettle them while working on a long-term solution to the Syrian crisis.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey hosts almost 2 million refugees from Syria and Iraq, including Kurds, Arabs, Turkmens and Yazidis and will continue to provide aid to Syria. Turkey, as one of the countries most used by refugees travelling to Europe, has spent $6 billion on hosting the refugees.

President  Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, which is closely allied with the Syrian government, offered to take 20,000 Syrian refugees, reiterating his support for Syrian president Bashar al Assad.

Another recent announcement came from Brazil, which has received more Syrian refugees than any other Latin America country. President Dilma Rousseff said on Monday that Brazil will receive Syrian refugees with open arms.

As the world tries to unite to deal with the refugee crisis, a statement came from Australian Senate leader Eric Abetz calling for priority to be given to Christian refugees.

He said, “Christians are the most persecuted group in the world, and especially in the Middle East, I think it stands to reason that they would be pretty high up on the priority list for resettlement.”

On Sunday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abott announced that Australia would take more Syrian and Iraqi refugees, up to a figure of 13,750.

Similar statements on refugee intake taking religion into account have come from some other countries since debates over the refugee crisis began.

Officials from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Estonia have expressed the desire to take mainly or only Christian refugees. The governments of these countries have drawn wide criticism for such religion-based statements.

Some individuals are also attempting to contribute to the process of solving the crisis. Finland’s central bank Governor Erkki Liikanen has said he will donate a moth’s salary, or €10,000 to the Finnish Red Cross to help dealing with refugee crisis. He said he knows the money will get through to those suffering the greatest distress and urged everyone to do whatever they could do to help.

TRTWorld and agencies