ATHENS/ROME: The United Nations has been forced to consider establishing refugee holding centres in north Africa and the Middle East due to the spiralling numbers of migrants attempting perilous journeys across the Mediterranean in a desperate effort to reach Europe.
The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, has said for the first time that the large-scale processing of migrants and refugees outside Europe, in countries such as Egypt, Libya or Sudan, may be necessary as frontline authorities claim they have been abandoned by Brussels in the face of a “colossal humanitarian catastrophe”.
Hundreds of thousands of people are preparing to make treacherous crossings on unseaworthy vessels from the north African coast to Greece and Italy as this summer’s “boat season” gets under way, say officials. Figures for the first few months of this year already show a dramatic increase on previous years.
UNHCR’s European director, Vincent Cochetel, told the Guardian: “We would not be totally against external processing if certain safeguards were in place: the right to appeal, fair process, the right to remain while appeals take place.”
The EU had not found effective mechanisms to prevent migrants dying at sea, he said. Instead of focusing on ever tougher border controls, the EU needed to establish safe routes.