Belfast Telegraph

Migrant crisis likely to get worse, aid agency boss warns

The European migrant crisis has a high chance of getting worse, a parliamentary watchdog has been warned.

Barry Andrews, chief executive of international aid agency Goal, said the main source of the problem is the war in Syria.

Ongoing conflict in the country has the potential to deepen and force millions of genuine refugees into exile as they flee persecution, he told the Oireachtas joint committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"This has a high chance of getting worse in Syria," said Mr Andrews.

"We could see millions of people moving over the border."

The former junior government minister said most of the migrants do not want to come to Europe, as they love their country and have ambitions for their home, but they were "real refugees".

Europe had international obligations to offer them asylum, he added.

Mr Andrews also attacked the United Nations (UN) for being "terrible" in addressing the root causes of the current humanitarian crisis.

The lack of a unified international effort to stop the violence should force a rethinking of the entire UN charter and model for global conflict resolution, he told TDs and senators on the committee.

Also before the watchdog, Sophie Magennis, Head of the UN Refugee Agency in Ireland, said the migrant crisis was huge but ultimately "manageable" in terms of the numbers seeking entry to Europe.

"There is no humanitarian solution to this crisis," she said.

"There needs to be a political solution to the conflicts that are causing people to flee."

Ms Magennis said 477,906 people have arrived by sea into Europe this year - double last year's figure and seven times the number in 2013.

However, this needed to be kept in perspective as a "very small movement" compared to the overall 60 million people displaced worldwide last year, she added.

Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan were taking in millions of migrants, according to the UN staffer.

"The key lesson of really chaotic scenes over recent days and weeks in the European Union is that piecemeal actions will not work," she told the watchdog.

"There needs to be a unified response by the European Union to this crisis which again we have termed as manageable."

Ms Magennis admitted "heavy criticism" from Irish parliamentarians of the UN and the security council was "very valid".

"What we have been trying to do at the level of High Commissioner and UN secretary general is to see what solutions there might be," she said.

"There doesn't seem to be a political consensus for a solution right now in the security council to try and address what's happening in terms of conflicts in the world.

"We hope there will be some movement on that, but we are in the hands of the member states when it comes to political leadership resolving these problems."

The Oireachtas joint committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade agreed to write to the Government and main Opposition party whips to seek a full Dail debate on the migrant crisis.

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