UNITED NATIONS: Hungary warned Wednesday that Europe’s migrant crisis was threatening the continent’s stability, at a UN meeting called to agree on a global response to the largest refugee exodus since World War II.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the meeting of some 70 countries with an appeal to keep borders open, combat xenophobia and integrate refugees and migrants.
“The future does not belong to those who seek to build walls or exploit fears,” said the UN chief.
Leaders gathered at the United Nations on the same day as Greek authorities recovered the bodies of a migrant woman and a child who drowned when their dinghy capsized in the Aegean, the latest reminder of the tragedy.
Taking a hard line on the migration crisis, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Europe cannot cope and called on Ban to launch negotiations on setting global quotas for accepting migrants.
“Let me be clear: Europe will not be able to carry this burden on our own,” Orban said.
“If there is no change in the current trends, Europe will be destabilized.”
Hungary has shut down its border with Serbia and is considering closing down its frontier with Croatia, building a razor wire fence to keep out the tens of thousands of people on the move.
Tackling the migrant crisis will require greater attention to bolstering peace and economic development, Orban argued, to “give back these people their homes and their country.”
“It cannot be our objective to provide them with a new European life,” he said.
The UN chief outlined an eight-point plan that included managed migration to open up more safe and legal channels for refugees and migrants and called for more burden-sharing to resettle refugees.
Europe’s handling of the crisis has come into focus amid an intense diplomatic debate over the way forward to end the war in Syria, which has driven four million people from their homes.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu took to the podium of the General Assembly to press for a “safe zone” to be created in Syria to protect civilians fleeing barrel bombs and the Islamic State group.
Sheltering two million Syrian refugees, Turkey has proposed creating the protected area near the Turkish-Syrian border as a way to cope with the mass influx of refugees from the war-torn country.
Initial reaction to the proposal has been cool, but with refugees massing at European borders and thousands of migrants drowning at sea, Turkey’s plan could gain traction.
The number of refugees worldwide has increased four-fold over the past five years, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.
In 2010, 11,000 people were fleeing conflict daily, but that figure has skyrocketed to 42,500 in 2015, he said.
The huge influx, Europe’s biggest since World War II, has exposed deep rifts in the continent about where the newcomers should go and what should be done to stem the flow.
“We need to do much more than we are currently doing,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the meeting.
Among the hardest-hit countries in Europe, Germany announced that a record number of between 270,000 to 280,000 refugees had arrived in September, more than the total for all of 2014.
Germany said it could step up checks on asylum claims as migrants arrive at its land borders, while the Czech Republic held police drills on its border with Austria as it mulled re-introducing border controls.
Foreign ministers from Serbia, Croatia, Greece and Austria, among others, all stressed that countries cannot handle the influx on their own.
The United Nations is struggling to help some 60 million people displaced by conflicts worldwide, the highest number since the end of World War II.