History will judge Europe on refugees, says top UN official

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A child looks out of the window of a train near Gevgelija, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Photo: UNICEF/UNI195775/Tidey

A massive increase in resources is needed to respond to the world's humanitarian crises and one of the ways to do it is by putting countries "on the spot" to pay up, a top UN official said Tuesday.

The remarks by the UN Special Representative for International Migration, Peter Sutherland, came in response to the refugee crisis currently playing out in the European Union.

He said that history would judge the continent's divided stance on the issue, before lending his weight to a call for a fairer redistribution of refugees among EU member states.

Daniel Johnson has more.

While thousands of refugees continue to make their way into the European Union every day, the UN's Peter Sutherland said that the situation is fast becoming unsustainable.

The Special Representative for International Migration praised the open-door policy on refugees of Germany, Austria and Sweden.

But he said that it was wrong that only a handful of EU member states had taken in 72 per cent of the total refugee community, while others had sheltered "virtually none".

The solidarity of German premier Angela Merkel with regard to the 800,000 refugees her country expects this year is to be welcomed, Sutherland said.

But he added that the "inevitable consequence" of the disjointed European approach was that the political leaders in the countries that had taken in most refugees would face pressure to stop doing so.

"History will judge this as a defining moment for Europe, a Europe that proclaimed itself to be created on the principle of values. If those values are jettisoned by a number of member states they will not be jettisoned by all, and Mrs Merkel I think deserves credit for what she has said in the teeth of some opposition; others should follow.

Peter Sutherland also said that countries needed to be put "on the spot" to finance the handling of humanitarian crises, in the face of massive funding shortages.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 1’15″

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