UNITED NATIONS —
Hungary’s Foreign Minister said Tuesday that his government will propose “world quotas” for nations to share the burden of taking in migrants and refugees, as Europe struggles to cope with growing flows of humanity escaping conflicts and poverty.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the annual United Nations meetings in New York, Péter Szijjártó said all major international actors should help carry the burden, “We should distribute it. We should introduce some world quotas - at least a part of the burden should be taken away from Europe.”
He said Hungary would make this proposal at Wednesday’s high-level meeting on the migration and refugee crisis that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is hosting.
“We hope that the secretary-general considers it,” Szijjártó said of their plan.
Hungary has been widely criticized for its poor treatment of the many migrants and refugees – most of whom are fleeing civil war in Syria. Recent media reports have shown police using tear gas and water cannons to control large crowds of refugees.
Fences and Camps
Szijjártó said more than 275,000 migrants and refugees have entered his country since January and as many as 8,000 to 10,000 a day until his government constructed a fence along its 175-kilometer-long southern border with Serbia.
Many of the migrants and refugees travel through Hungary to Germany, Austria and Sweden - richer European countries with more liberal asylum laws.
“That is why it is a mistake when European politicians make statements which encourage people to move to Europe,” he said.
The Hungarian minister also proposed that the European Union should contribute the full cost of running the refugee camps for Syrians in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, and pay for additional camps if they are necessary.
The U.N. has appealed for more than $8 billion to fund Syrian needs inside and outside the country this year.
“We think that the right approach is to ensure that these people, who had to escape from their homes, should stay as close as possible so when the conflict, the wars are over, they can return easily to their homes,” he said.
The European Union has been the largest collective donor to humanitarian appeals for the Syrian refugees, giving nearly 10 billion Euros ($11.3 billion) so far, said EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini. She said the bloc plans to do more, “It is our duty – moral, political and regional.”
Mogherini told reporters on the sidelines of a ministerial level meeting on Syria that the international community must use the new sense of urgency that is growing around the refugee crisis to find a way to end the war in Syria.
“I see that around this concept of starting a political process that includes all Syrians that refuse terrorism and want to fight and unite forces against terrorism, I see that there might be a political space for new initiatives in the coming weeks,” she said.
Mogherini did not detail what those initiatives might be, saying only that she sees a “possible common ground for a common diplomatic effort to bring an end to this war.”
More than a half million migrants have now made the perilous Mediterranean Sea crossing this year in search of a new life in Europe, the United Nations refugee agency reported Tuesday.
The U.N. said nearly 515,000 asylum seekers have left war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa since January, with 383,000 reaching the shores of Greece and another 129,000 landing in Italy. The refugee agency said nearly 3,000 have drowned or disappeared making the passage on rickety or overcrowded boats and rafts.
More than half of those headed to Europe have come from war-torn Syria.