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Managing Europe Migration Crisis Proves Costly, Difficult

People walk from the transit center for refugees towards the border with Serbia, near the northern Macedonian village of Tabanovce, Jan. 26, 2016.

The U.N. refugee agency and some 65 other organizations are appealing for $550 million to manage the ongoing migration crisis in Europe. The appeal will fund humanitarian operations this year across the affected countries, with about half of the money going to Greece.

More than one million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe by boat last year. Around 850,000 made the perilous Aegean Sea crossing from Turkey to Greece. From there, most continued on through the Balkans to seek asylum in Austria, Germany, Sweden and other countries.

As the refugees and migrants kept arriving, some European countries closed their doors to the refugees or took measures to dissuade them from coming.

The latest is Denmark, which passed a law on Tuesday allowing police to confiscate valuables from asylum seekers worth more than $1,400. Under the law, refugees and migrants also will have to wait three years instead of one before applying for their relatives to join them.

U.N. refugee spokesman Adrian Edwards said the Danish decision sent damaging messages.

“In our view, it runs the risk of fueling sentiments of fear and discrimination rather than promoting solidarity with people in need of protection. On the limited access of family reunification - we just remind people of the point that family unity is a fundamental principle in international law, and it is very much a part of Denmark’s obligations,” he said.

The heavy influx of people into Europe last year created chaos. Humanitarian agencies predict a similar, if not larger, number of refugees and migrants is likely to arrive this year.

Edwards said humanitarian operations to manage this migration in 2016 in an orderly way would include aid and protection activities.

“This includes identifying people at heightened risk, registration, shelter, water, sanitation - all the elements of a major aid operation. It also looks at bolstering capacities for the front-line responders. These are coast guards, police, border guards and supporting affected communities,” he said.

A few months ago, the European Union agreed to fairly redistribute 160,000 refugees among its member states. Only a small fraction so far has been relocated. Edwards said part of the humanitarian appeal was to help with the relocation and resettlement of refugees.