Rights official calls for refugees’ direct relocation to EU


A top European human rights official called on Friday for refugees to be resettled in Europe directly from camps near conflicts zones to prevent them from enduring long and dangerous journeys that are unnecessary anyway.

Nils Muiznieks, human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, said that since 99 per cent of Syrian refugees and about two-thirds of those from Afghanistan are granted international protects in Europe anyway, it was a “chaotic and inefficient policy” to make them take long journeys by land and sea while relying on human traffickers.

“Why make them go through this suffering? Why not have resettlement directly from in and around the areas of conflict?” Muiznieks said in an interview.

“It would be a much more humane solution”. Asylum seekers from the Middle East have been making long treks into Europe through Greece and the Balkans, facing dangerous sea journeys and blocked borders as more and more countries in the region put up barriers.

Macedonia became the latest country o try to block migrants at its border, causing hundreds to be stranded.

On Thursday, hundreds of migrants clashed with Macedonian riot police at as they tried to force their way through the cordon. The International Organisation for Migration said that after the number of people crossing into Europe from Turkey topped 5,000 on Wednesday after dropping to just 155 on Sunday.

Muizinieks urged more countries to follow the policies of Germany and Britain, which have already carried out resettlements or have pledged to do so.

Muiznieks, whose visit to Hungary focused on migration, also said that while he had initially opposed mandatory European Union quotas to relocate migrants, he now favored the scheme because otherwise countries showed no inclination to take part.

“Voluntary solidarity has not worked so we need rules-based solidarity,” Muiznieks said, calling the so-called Dublin rules — which allow migrants to be returned to the countries where they first entered the EU — “bankrupt” because they put “unsustainable pressures on front-line countries” like Greece, Italy, Hungary and Slovenia.

He added that while relocation quotas were a “first step forward,” guidelines for receiving and integrating refugees needed to be shared across the EU. While some countries offer free language lessons, housing assistance and vocational training, others offer migrants “virtually nothing,” he said.

“Unless there’s a further harmonisation of these standards, people will go where they get support,” Muiznieks said.