European border closures 'inhumane': UN refugee agency

European border closures 'inhumane': UN refugee agency

ISTANBUL - Reuters
European border closures inhumane: UN refugee agency The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said on May 23 border closures in Europe to stop migrants were inhumane and government efforts to stem the flow had averted the crisis only temporarily. 

Border closures across the Balkans and a deal between Turkey and the European Union have sharply reduced the number of people crossing into Europe this year, after a million made the often perilous journey in 2015, most fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and North Africa. 

"There are a lot of people patting themselves on the shoulder and saying the deal worked, the people have stopped coming: but there's more to it than that," Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the UNHCR, said on the sidelines of the world's first humanitarian summit. 

"It has pushed the problem backwards and the problem is not yet solved." 

She added: "The sudden (border) closure and the action by unilateral states was inhumane vis-a-vis many vulnerable people." 

Under the deal between Europe and Turkey, Ankara has agreed to take back illegal migrants from Europe in return for aid, accelerated EU accession talks and visa-free travel to the bloc. 

EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides acknowledged there was "room to improve" the bloc's policy on migration. "We have time in order to find this common policy," he said. 

Finalisation of the EU-Turkey deal has been held up by disagreements over Turkey's anti-terrorism law, which Brussels wants brought in line with European standards. 

Billed as the first of its kind, the United Nations summit in Istanbul aims to develop a better response to what has been called the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two.