Europeans would understand plight of refugees if only they could meet them, UN chief says

Kim Sengupta (edited@ev_bartlett
Wednesday 02 September 2015 10:20
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Europeans would want to help desperate migrants if they could see the harrowing experiences they suffer to arrive here, a senior United Nations official has said.

Philippe Douste-Blazy, UN under-secretary general who is the organisation's special adviser for development, recently returned from a fact-finding mission to the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa.

On his first trip out with Italian coastguards, he found himself staring into the hold of a smugglers' boat with more than 50 dead migrants on board, including babies.

Philippe Douste-Blazy (Picture: Getty)

People need to see the full horror of what's going on, and how desperate these refugees and migrants are. Then I am sure they will want to help. The talk from politicians is of invasion, mass migration.

But, you know, these populists should be careful; the people of Europe are more decent and humane than they think, and they will not like being used for political ends.

  • Philippe Douste-Blazy, speaking to the i paper on Tuesday

The refugee crisis puts Europe at a crossroads, Angela Merkel says

Angela Merkel (Picture: Getty)

Angela Merkel has warned that Europe's claim to be a human rights champion would be "kaput" if it fails to tackle the refugee crisis.

Speaking on Tuesday as thousands of refugees from Syria and Afghanistan arrived unexpectedly in the country by train from Austria and Hungary, the chancellor pledged that her country will lead Europe from its "migrant crisis".

Germany is struggling to cope with a record influx of 800,000 asylum seekers this year - more than any other European Union member state.

But at a press conference in Berlin, Merkel insisted her country was equipped for the challenge, despite revelations that the crisis would cost taxpayers an extra €3.3bn (£2.4bn) next year.

Germany is a strong country. We have managed to cope with so many things. We will cope with this and if there are obstacles, they will have to be overcome.

Merkel added that if Europe failed to tackle the refugee crisis, it would not be "the Europe that we want".

Her remarks came less than 24 hours after an estimated 3,600 refugees from Syria and Afghanistan arrived in Munich and Rosenheim by train from Hungary and Austria, which prompted Budapest to close its main railway station following its flip-flopping over the EU's Dublin agreement, which requires refugees to apply for asylum in the first EU country they set foot in.

There were tense scenes as hundreds of baton-wielding riot police cleared the station of refugees hoping to enter Germany. Thousands gathered outside the station, chanting "we want go Germany" and "Merkel, Merkel".

More: Meet the author who inspired a nation to welcome refugees

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