UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The swift acceptance of Ukrainians fleeing Russian aggression underscores Europe’s “double standards” for migrants, as opposed to its unwelcomeness to people fleeing violence in Africa, the Middle East East and elsewhere, said the head of the world’s largest humanitarian network. he said he on Monday.
Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said he doesn’t think “there is any difference” between someone fleeing the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine and someone escaping from the extremist group Boko Haram in Nigeria.
“Those fleeing violence, those seeking protection, should be treated the same,” said Rocca, whose organization operates in more than 192 countries with nearly 15 million volunteers.
Speaking at a news conference, he said there is “a moral imperative” to help people escape violence and unrest, and “the political, public and humanitarian response to the Ukraine crisis has shown what is possible when humanity and dignity come first, when there is global solidarity”.
“We expected that the Ukraine crisis would have been a turning point in European migration policies,” said Rocca. “But unfortunately, this was not the case.”
He said the 27-member European Union still has different approaches to migration on its eastern border in Ukraine and its southern border in the Mediterranean.
The war, which Russia insists on calling a “special military operation,” has caused one of the worst humanitarian crises in Europe since World War II.
Since Russia invaded on February 24, more than 6 million people have fled Ukraine, Poland absorbed more than 3.3 million and more than 900,000 went to Romania, 605,000 to Hungary, 463,000 to Moldova and 421,000 to Slovakia. according to the UN refugee agency.
Instead, Rocca said, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers trying to reach Europe continue to die, face abuse and struggle to access essential services.
More than 48,000 migrants have died or gone missing since 2014 while traveling by sea, and the deadliest route is the one migrants take through the central Mediterranean to Europe, with at least 19,000 of those deaths, it said.
Those who do arrive, mainly in Italy, Greece and Spain, are often interned in camps and face long waits for their asylum claims to be heard.
“In Europe there is a great heart and soul, because the community in Europe was able to open its arms and receive millions in a few days from Ukrainians,” Rocca said. “So they lie about the threat coming from the Mediterranean Sea, when it’s a few thousand people.”
He said that “ethnicity and nationality should not be a deciding factor in saving lives.”
“There’s a double standard,” Rocca said. “This is obvious. It’s in our eyes, and we can’t deny it when it comes to seeking protection.”
Rocca was at the UN headquarters for the first review of the global compact in July 2018 to promote safe and orderly migration and reduce human smuggling and trafficking. It was the first global document to address the issue of migration and was signed by more than 190 nations. The administration of US President Donald Trump boycotted the negotiations.
While progress has been made on the pact, mainly as it relates to Ukrainians, Rocca said there is still “a long way” to make the pact’s vision and commitments a reality. He said that many migrant lives have been lost because governments failed to change their policies to ensure safe and dignified migration.
“Governments have the right to establish migration policies and manage their borders,” he said. “They are obliged to do it in a way that avoids suffering and death.”
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