Refugee agency calls for EU centres to fix crisis

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Refugees arriving in Greece, mainly from countries experiencing war and conflict. Photo: UNHCR/J. Akkash

Huge new asylum processing centres in southern Europe are part of the answer to the continent's refugee crisis, the UN said Friday.

The call by Refugee Agency (UNHCR) chief Antonio Guterres comes amid a reported spike in the number of desperate women and children arriving on the European Union's borders, principally fleeing the Syria conflict.

An estimated 200,000 people need shelter in Europe, according to UNHCR, which urged EU member states to do more to help refugees who believed they had been "misled" by authorities.

Daniel Johnson has more.

The UN Refugee Agency's (UNHCR) call for huge new reception centres in Italy, Greece and Hungary, amounts to a radical overhaul of European Union asylum policy.

Speaking in Geneva, UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming said this would prevent people-smugglers from exploiting desperate refugees who felt that they had been "misled" by the authorities .

"There's a lot of fear among refugees, they feel that they've been misled, they don't know what's going to happen to them…by not having these processing centres in place, you're basically handing over easy profits to smugglers."

The development comes as EU leaders continue to deliberate about how to help hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing conflict zones–principally in Syria–but also from neighbouring countries where conditions have become intolerable.

Pressure for a solution to the crisis has mounted in recent days after pictures were published of Aylan, a three-year-old refugee who died trying to cross the Mediterranean.

The UN agency says that the EU's approach is "fragmented" and requires a massive common effort in the face of what it describes as Europe's biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.

In a call for action from the EU, UNHCR chief António Guterres said that while Aylan's story had touched the hearts of many, 2,600 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea this year.

Some 300,000 people have made it to Europe so far this year, UNHCR says, and numbers show no sign of slowing up.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 1’13″


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