EU says should brace for 'massive' Syrian refugee flow
STRASBOURG, France - Agence France-Presse
Syrian refugees, fleeing the violence in their country, cross the border into the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq September 4, 2013. REUTERS PhotoThe European Union needs to brace for a possible "massive" influx of Syrian refugees, the bloc's internal markets commissioner Michel Barnier told the European Parliament on Wednesday.
"We need to be prepared for the possibility of an even more massive influx," Barnier said during a parliamentary debate on Syria.
Several EU nations including Bulgaria and Greece have reported a strong increase in refugees from the Syrian conflict.
"The response surely should not be to close national borders, to shrink away or barricade ourselves," he said. "This is not a strictly national issue, it is a European issue." "Any crisis of this size affects us all and we must be ready in a spirit of great solidarity," he said.
More than two million Syrians have fled the country to seek refuge mainly in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and the number could swell to 3.5 million by year's end, Barnier added.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has asked EU nations to offer asylum to 10,000 Syrians and resettle 2,000 of the most vulnerable.
Some 50,000 Syrians have applied for protection since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, mostly in Sweden and Germany.