The U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants urged European governments on Friday to stop sealing borders and offer migrants and refugees safe, reliable channels of migration and resettlement programs.
“Syrians in Turkey and Lebanon and Jordan will not stop going to smugglers to create a future for their children unless we offer them something better,” Francois Crepeau told reporters.
Special rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the U.N.’s Human Rights Council to report on specific human rights issues.
Crepeau said smugglers are in business because of government-created obstacles to human mobility.
“Humankind is wired for migration,” he said. “That’s who we are. We have always migrated. That’s how we conquered the planet 10 times over.”
He said borders are inherently porous and that walls and fences only serve to divert flows of refugees to other places, not stop them coming in the first place.
Crepeau, a Canadian professor, was appointed special rapporteur in 2011. He said the current crisis in Europe is unlikely to end soon and that plans must be made to resettle refugees and migrants for at least the next five to eight years.
He said the numbers of people to be absorbed by European countries are very manageable. He calculated that 2 million refugees resettled over five years in the 32 countries that make up Europe and the global north, would come out to about 50,000 people per year for Germany and 40,000 each for France and Britain. Canada would only need to take about 17,000 each year.
He noted that Germany has already absorbed some 800,000 migrants and refugees this year.
“The migration crisis in Europe is not a capacity crisis,” the special rapporteur said. “What we have is a crisis in political leadership.”
The United Nations says a half-million people have made the perilous journey north to Europe this year, and at least 3,000 have died crossing the Mediterranean in smugglers boats.