More than 1.3 million refugees and migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and elsewhere have arrived in Europe over the past two years. They have met with resistance from European nations reluctant to receive them; tens of thousands continue to languish in sub-standard camps and makeshift accommodations, with inadequate assistance and little hope for their future.
The plan being launched by the U.N. refugee agency and International Organization for Migration sets out a new strategy to ensure safe access to asylum and protection of these individuals.
UNHCR spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly calls this a very pragmatic plan – one that will be reviewed throughout the year and adjusted to the reality on the ground,” said Pouilly. “She tells VOA the plan aims to support long-term solutions and an orderly and dignified way of managing migration.
“We have been constantly advocating for instance for European countries to offer more legal pathways for refugees and migrants to come to Europe, the reason being that if we do not offer such legal pathways, people resort to human smuggling with the deadly consequences that we have been witnessing over the past two years,” said Pouilly.
The United Nations says some 5,000 people lost their lives in 2016 while making the perilous crossing in flimsy smuggler boats across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
Aid agencies hope to prevent such tragedies from occurring by presenting safer alternatives to refugees and migrants. Pouilly says the plan emphasizes the specific needs of refugee and migrant children, as well as those of women and girls.
She says efforts will be made to meet the needs of unaccompanied and separated children in Europe and that more than 25,000 of the children arrived by sea in Italy alone last year.