Ending the war in Syria is best hope to stop migrant flow – IOM


Ending the war in Syria is the best hope of reducing the heavy flow of asylum seekers into Europe, which continues despite the winter weather, the head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Thursday.

IOM Director General William Lacy Swing also said that the European Union was “perfectly capable” of managing the influx of asylum seekers if states had the political will, but that anti-migrant sentiment was on the rise.

More than 24,000 migrants and refugees crossed the Mediterranean to Greece and Italy in the first two weeks of January, joining more than 1 million who arrived in 2015, according to his agency’s figures.
“That’s lower than the (monthly) average last year but we are in January, which is not sailing season, this is the wintertime. So those numbers could go back up,” Swing told a news briefing held by the Foreign Press Association of Switzerland (APES).

Asked about prospects for Syria peace talks being hosted by the United Nations on January 25 in Geneva, Swing said:
“The biggest hope you have in having fewer numbers this year would be a solution to the five-year war in Syria. We want devoutly to hope that those talks will succeed because that’s where the pressure is,” he said.

On Sweden’s border controls and a proposed measure in Denmark to allow the authorities to confiscate all valuables belonging to refugees worth over 10,000 crowns ($1,450) and then use them to pay for their stay, he said: “These are measures that we don’t endorse, obviously.”

Swing said “unprecedented anti-migrant sentiment” was growing and widespread, mostly in the industrialised world. He said EU countries lacked political will to cope with the surge in migrants, while Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon have had to accommodate 4 million Syrian refugees for years.

Swing condemned the New Year’s Eve mass assaults on women in Cologne, Germany, but said that the extent of involvement of some 20 asylum seekers should be kept in perspective.
“However many it was, that should not be allowed to condemn an entire population of one million refugees who came in,” he said.