Norwegian Refugee Council Warns EU Against Closing of Borders

World | February 17, 2016, Wednesday // 19:07
Bulgaria: Norwegian Refugee Council Warns EU Against Closing of Borders Refugees receive instructions from a Norwegian police officer after crossing the the border between Norway and Russia in Storskog, near Kirkenes in Northern Norway, 16 November, 2015. EPA/BGNES

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has warned against the closing of European national borders and called on European leaders to agree instead on a credible collective response to the current migration crisis.

“A European fortress approach, with closed borders, will only serve to dilute EU laws and values and send an appalling signal to the rest of the world regarding our commitment to uphold international refugee law”, Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary-General, Jan Egeland, said in a statement on Wednesday, ahead of the meeting of the European Council on 18 and 19 February.

At the summit in Brussels, European leaders will discuss options to resolve the worst migration and refugee crisis in Europe since WWII. The European Council will look at the implementation of the decisions already taken and prepare the ground for future decisions to be taken at its next meeting in March. Discussions will focus on humanitarian assistance, external border management, the implementation of the EU-Turkey Action Plan agreed in November and the operation of hotspots.

The NRC urged the European Union and its member states to resist the imposition of new border restrictions and instead hammer out a common European approach to the migration challenge.

“If not, long-term and large scale refugee camps in Greece, the Balkans and elsewhere may be the end result,” the NRC warned.

“If the Greek-Macedonian border is sealed, or if Greece is suspended from Schengen, Europe will see massive refugee camps on its soil as large numbers of people seeking protection will become trapped - unable to travel beyond Greece, nor return,” Egeland said.

To avoid that risk, the EU needs to commit to receiving more refugees through its relocation scheme, increase support to frontline states such as Greece and Italy and transit countries, such as non-EU Macedonia and Serbia, create more safe and legal routes to Europe, and scale up assistance to humanitarian crises in Syria and the neighbouring countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, the NRC said.

More than 30,000 people sought asylum in Norway last year, with most of them crossing the border from Sweden. Norway, a country of about five million people, is not a member of the EU, but is a party to Europe's Schengen area of passport-free travel.

The NRC is a humanitarian non-government organisation working in more than 25 countries worldwide, including Greece, Serbia, Syria and its neighbouring countries, Afghanistan and Iraq.

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Tags: Norway, Norwegian Refugee Council, NRC, Egeland, greece, Balkans, turkey, macedonia, Serbia, borders, Italy, hotspots, European Council, EU
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