05:03 GMT26 November 2020
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    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)

    The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR has taken the diplomatically unusual step of urging leaders in Central Europe to show greater solidarity with desperate refugees who seek sanctuary on the continent as war, conflict and extremism force millions from their homes.

    UNHCR's call comes ahead of the Visegrad Group Summit in Prague on February 15, where leaders from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia (the so-called V4) will discuss regional issues, including the ongoing refugee crisis. Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are also invited to participate.

    The European Commission has faced major opposition to its plan to relocate 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece ever since the plan was first discussed in June. It was finally agreed in September that the refugees would be relocated across Europe under a quota system, however — so far — only around 500 have been moved amid disagreements over the mandatory quota system.

    Many Central European countries are refusing to take in an allocated quota, which is based on a formula that considers: the size of the population (40%), total GDP (40%), the average number of asylum applications over the previous four years (10%) and the unemployment rate (10%).

    "While UNHCR fully understands that public opinions can sometimes be apprehensive about the unfolding situation in Europe, it is important to give both relocation and resettlement a chance to work. These tools of solidarity create an alternative to smuggling and trafficking and could reduce dangerous onward movements," said Montserrat Feixas Vihe, UNHCR's Regional Representative for Central Europe.

    'Cannot Be Bystanders'

    "It is time for the leadership in Central Europe to set a strong example and commit to help families fleeing war and human rights violations, irrespective of their nationality or religion. Leaders in the region need to offer safety to people fleeing persecution. They cannot be bystanders during this unprecedented humanitarian situation. The world expects them to contribute to saving lives and restoring hope for those who have lost everything," said Vihe.

    The V4 states were hosting some 25,000 refugees in 2015, 0.125 percent of the nearly 20 million global refugee population.

    Hungary received 177,000 asylum seeker applications in 2015, but the vast majority of them left within a few days. The other three V4 countries combined received some 14,000 asylum claims.

    "A unified humanitarian approach in Europe based on solidarity and responsibility sharing would turn this situation into a manageable, coordinated program ensuring people would find refuge, safety and dignity," said Vihe.

    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)


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    free movement, applications, relocation, summit, plan, humanitarian crisis, asylum, migrants, refugees, Visegrad 4, European Commission, United Nations, European Union, Europe
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