EU deal on migrants ‘disappointing’ says UN

The European Union's stance on a surge in asylum seekers seeking to enter the bloc was attacked as derisory by a top UN official.

EU deal on migrants 'disappointing' says UN
A migrant holds a placard reading "we are not going back" Photo: Jean-Christophe Magnenet / AFP

Peter Sutherland, the UN Secretary General's special representative on international migration, bemoaned EU leaders' failure to approve a plan to share a total of 60,000 would-be refugees, mainly from Syria and Eritrea, across the 28-nation bloc.

“The bar has been placed at a low level for the beginning, and even at that low level, the only agreement was for relocations on a voluntary basis, which I think is disappointing,” Sutherland told reporters in Rome.

With more than 500 million citizens, the EU could easily absorb more than a few tens of thousands of people fleeing conflict, he argued.

Sutherland was also critical of plans for a naval operation against people traffickers.

“A focus on military action or punitive expeditions in regards to boats doesn't address the problem and it certainly doesn't answer the problem,” he said.
“Let's assume that we stop everything over the Mediterranean, what is that doing for migrants? They are trying to leave a terrible situation.”

“Don't criminalise the people who are on the boats. They are just trying to escape. Pretending that sending teams to blow up or sink boats is a military solution to a human problem, it's rubbish.

We need far more and we are only at the first steps to finding ways of dealing with what is going to be a continuing major issue for public policy throughout the European union for a forseeable future. It is not going away and there is a humanitarian and moral obligation to do something about it.”
Sutherland was in Rome for talks with Italian officials on the migrant crisis and for a meeting with Pope Francis who has spoken out regularly on the plight of migrants.