Countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq need support as they deal with the ongoing refugee crisis, the head of world’s major migration body has told Anadolu Agency.
Speaking in Istanbul on Thursday, William Lacy Swing, director general of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), said:
“Everybody is very conscient that countries which are generally hosting these refugees and migrants need to be supported both morally and financially."
“Turkey is now the largest refugee-hosting country in the world with more than two million Syrian refugees,” he added, speaking on the sidelines of the 8th Global Forum on Migration and Development Summit Meeting.
Millions of Syrian refugees have fled their country since war broke out more than four years ago. The UN said in June the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide has “for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people.”
Speaking as a European Union delegation visited the Turkish capital Ankara on Thursday to thrash out a joint deal – which German Chancellor Angela Merkel has described as playing a “key role” in solving the crisis – Swing said:
“I think there is desire on the part of European countries and others to try to have a regular dialog with the neighboring countries of Syria to see how can we coordinate and cooperate and help one another more to manage the crisis.”
A refugee action plan was proposed by the EU and presented to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 5.
According to the plan, the EU offered €1 billion ($1.13 billion) in humanitarian assistance for refugees hosted in Turkey, which is keen to establish a safe area for refugees to live inside Syria.
Turkey is also seeking easier visa travel to the EU for its citizens – a move which European Council President Donald Tusk has said can only be made if Turkey cuts the flow of refugees coming into Europe.
Speaking about Merkel’s one-day visit to Turkey at the weekend, Swing said that the Chancellor was “helping a lot to cause others to say ‘we can share this responsibility’.”
Noting both the four million refugees outside of Syria and eight million internally displaced persons inside are also in great need, the IOM head said that he considered talks “very positive” and “helpful for all sides.”
Assisting migrants in winter will be more difficult
The IOM chief also warned of the difficulties in assisting thousands of refugees who are trying to cross borders to Europe while the winter approaches.
“Clearly it is going to make it much more difficult in assisting migrants,” Swing said, adding “the tents in refugee camps have to be winterised; there has to be winter clothing for the refugees.”
“Once you are on the move, it becomes even more challenging because how do you help them on the move in the middle of winter? I think it is going to be much more expensive, and we are all going to have to do much more if we are going to help them get through the winter,” he added.
New figures released by the IOM on Tuesday revealed that 600,000 refugees arrived in Europe while more than 3,000 refugees had died crossing the Mediterranean Sea so far this year.
Swing also underlined that the international community was lacking a consensus on shared responsibility.
“We all have a responsibility in the sense that we didn’t prevent these conflicts, and we have done very little to resolve it,” he said, adding: “So in a sense we inherited this shared responsibility now.”