Thursday, October 1, 2015

European Trade Union Confederation Urges Revamp of Asylum Rules

A man carries his belongings as other migrants and refugees arrive on a ferry from the Greek island of Lesbos at the Athens' port of Piraeus, Sept. 30, 2015.

European trade unions are urging new rules for asylum rights be introduced to ensure the migrants and refugees are "evenhandedly" accepted among EU member states.

Delegates Wednesday at the congress of the European Trade Union Confederation in Paris, in a near unanimously adopted resolution, said the new rules should consider the needs and choice of refugees, including linguistic and family ties

They also said EU measures to address the biggest influx of migrant and refugees into Europe since World War II, only “partially” met the challenge facing the continent.

The confederation, a group of 90 unions, also condemned governments who refuse to fully cooperate in the resettlement of asylum seekers and said "obstacles and closures" must be banned.

Also Wednesday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is to speak at two high-level meetings dealing with the upheaval. He will first address a Security Council discussion on settlement of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, the areas many migrants are fleeing. And later he hosts a high-level meeting aimed at forming a global response to the flood of migrants now overwhelming Europe.

Opening the General Assembly this week in New York, Ban urged Europe “to do more” and called on international community to tackle the source of the problem.

“We should not be building fences of walls, but above all me must look at root causes, in countries of origin,” he said.

​The world's seven leading industrialized countries, along with Gulf states pledged to contribute $1.8 billion to U.N. aid agencies to help with the world's worst migrant crisis since the second World War.

The announcement came Tuesday after a G7 meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. Also attending the meeting were Gulf state leaders and those of some of the European nations dealing with the influx of displaced people.

Germany's foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters that the funds are intended largely for the U.N. refugee agency and the World Food Program. It is not clear whether the $1.8 billion figure includes previous pledges of aid.

Separately, Japan announced it will give $810 million to help with refugees from and within Syria and Iraq, the major sources of displacement - and an additional $750 million to use for peace-building in the Middle East and Africa.
Migrant routes into EU

United Nations officials say the U.N. is stretched far beyond its limits as it struggles to help some 60 million people displaced by conflict - the highest total since World War II.

The U.N. reported Tuesday nearly 515,000 asylum seekers have left war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa since January, with 383,000 reaching the shores of Greece and another 129,000 landing in Italy. The refugee agency said nearly 3,000 have drowned or disappeared making the passage on rickety or overcrowded boats and rafts.

The unrelenting influx of migrants has divided Europe, with economic powerhouse Germany and some other northern European countries mostly welcoming them while some central European nations have tried to block their path northward through their territories.

Now Berlin has moved to tighten its control over the stream of asylum-seekers reaching its territory, announcing that it is asking parliament to reduce payments to the migrants and mostly distributing benefits in kind, such as housing and food, rather than offering cash.

Most Germans have supported Chancellor Angela Merkel in her efforts to welcome the asylum seekers, but political surveys in the country show her popularity is slipping amid criticism from members of her ruling conservative bloc.
Hungarian soldiers put up spools of razor wire on Slovenian border in Zitkovci, Sept. 25, 2015. Hungary has installed spools of razor wire near a border crossing with Slovenia, which like Hungary is part of the EU's Schengen zone of passport-free travel.

Meanwhile, Hungary, the most vocal opponent of the migration, expanded the number of courts hearing charges against refugees who have been caught illegally entering the country through its four-meter-high razor wire fence. So far, one court has convicted 176 migrants and expelled them from Hungary, while acquitting no one.


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