SHARE
COPY LINK

IMMIGRATION

‘Global response needed for migration crisis’

The United Nations' top official in charge of migration said in Geneva on Tuesday that the crisis rocking Europe needs a "global response", insisting that countries worldwide must be asked to do their share.

'Global response needed for migration crisis'
Peter Sutherland, UN Secretary-General for Migration and Development at Geneva press conference on Tuesday. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

“We should have a European response as part of a global response,” UN Special Representative for Migration and Development Peter Sutherland told reporters in the Swiss city, hinting at the need for an international conference “where every country is held up to the spotlight.”

Europe is dealing with hundreds of thousands of migrants — many of them fleeing violence in places like Syria — pouring across the Mediterranean and taking a land route up through the continent.

Syria's neighbours are meanwhile struggling to host more than four million refugees from the war-ravaged country.

Sutherland insisted geographical proximity to a crisis should not determine who takes in refugees, pointing out that during the Vietnam War, refugees were welcomed into countries around the globe.

The same, he said, was true following the Hungarian revolution in 1956, when an international conference was held to help distribute the some 200,000 people who fled the Soviet crackdown.

He called for “a much more proactive response by the international community.”

“We have to find a method, perhaps as we did in 1956 in the conference that took place then, to get specific commitments from every state in regard to taking refugees,” he added.

He also insisted on a system to evaluate who constitutes a refugee that is consistent across all nations, noting that at present, different countries are using different criteria.

Defining moment for Europe

Sutherland also stressed that sending aid money to help Syrians at home or in the region should not be seen by governments as a substitute to taking in a fair share of refugees.

“Buying your way out of this is not satisfactory,” he said, pointing out that a number of the wealthy Gulf states had been very generous in their contributions, but had taken in very few refugees.

The same, he said, is true of the United States and Britain.

Sutherland called for a much fairer distribution of the refugee burden within Europe, pointing out that only five European countries have taken 72 percent of all refugees, while others take “virtually none”.

He was especially critical of Hungary, which instead of welcoming refugees is building an anti-migrant fence along its southern border.

“History will judge this as a defining moment for Europe, a Europe that proclaimed itself to be created on the principle of values,” he said.

Sutherland also stressed that far more resources needed to be channelled into the UN agencies and other organisations trying handle the refugee crisis and the humanitarian impact of Syria's war.

The UN refugee agency warned Tuesday that increasingly brutal fighting in Syria and the dire underfunding of aid operations aimed to help the refugees in neighbouring countries are pushing many to risk the perilous journey to Europe.

“For the vast majority, who are not living in formal camps, hope is dwindling as they sink ever deeper into abject poverty,” UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) meanwhile, said severe underfunding had forced it to halve its food assistance to 1.3 million Syrian refugees, most of whom are now living on the equivalent of 50 US cents per day.

It has cut out food assistance altogether to 229,000 refugees in Jordan and 131,000 in Lebanon, as it tries to focus on feeding the most vulnerable. 

IMMIGRATION

How Europe’s population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

The populations of countries across Europe are changing, with some increasing whilst others are falling. Populations are also ageing meaning the EU is having to react to changing demographics.

How Europe's population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

After decades of growth, the population of the European Union decreased over the past two years mostly due to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest data from the EU statistical office Eurostat show that the EU population was 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, 172,000 fewer than the previous year. On 1 January 2020, the EU had a population of 447.3 million.

This trend is because, in 2020 and 2021 the two years marked by the crippling pandemic, there have been more deaths than births and the negative natural change has been more significant than the positive net migration.

But there are major differences across countries. For example, in numerical terms, Italy is the country where the population has decreased the most, while France has recorded the largest increase.

What is happening and how is the EU reacting?

In which countries is the population growing?

In 2021, there were almost 4.1 million births and 5.3 million deaths in the EU, so the natural change was negative by 1.2 million (more broadly, there were 113,000 more deaths in 2021 than in 2020 and 531,000 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019, while the number of births remained almost the same).

Net migration, the number of people arriving in the EU minus those leaving, was 1.1 million, not enough to compensate.

A population growth, however, was recorded in 17 countries. Nine (Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, France, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands and Sweden) had both a natural increase and positive net migration.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Five things to know about Germany’s foreign population

In eight EU countries (the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Lithuania, Austria, Portugal and Finland), the population increased because of positive net migration, while the natural change was negative.

The largest increase in absolute terms was in France (+185,900). The highest natural increase was in Ireland (5.0 per 1,000 persons), while the biggest growth rate relative to the existing population was recorded in Luxembourg, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta (all above 8.0 per 1,000 persons).

In total, 22 EU Member States had positive net migration, with Luxembourg (13.2 per 1 000 persons), Lithuania (12.4) and Portugal (9.6) topping the list.

Births and deaths in the EU from 1961 to 2021 (Eurostat)

Where is the population declining?

On the other hand, 18 EU countries had negative rates of natural change, with deaths outnumbering births in 2021.

Ten of these recorded a population decline. In Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia population declined due to a negative natural change, while net migration was slightly positive.

In Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia, the decrease was both by negative natural change and negative net migration.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

The largest fall in population was reported in Italy, which lost over a quarter of a million (-253,100).

The most significant negative natural change was in Bulgaria (-13.1 per 1,000 persons), Latvia (-9.1), Lithuania (-8.7) and Romania (-8.2). On a proportional basis, Croatia and Bulgaria recorded the biggest population decline (-33.1 per 1,000 persons).

How is the EU responding to demographic change?

From 354.5 million in 1960, the EU population grew to 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, an increase of 92.3 million. If the growth was about 3 million persons per year in the 1960s, it slowed to about 0.7 million per year on average between 2005 and 2022, according to Eurostat.

The natural change was positive until 2011 and turned negative in 2012 when net migration became the key factor for population growth. However, in 2020 and 2021, this no longer compensated for natural change and led to a decline.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Over time, says Eurostat, the negative natural change is expected to continue given the ageing of the population if the fertility rate (total number of children born to each woman) remains low.

This poses questions for the future of the labour market and social security services, such as pensions and healthcare.

The European Commission estimates that by 2070, 30.3 per cent of the EU population will be 65 or over compared to 20.3 per cent in 2019, and 13.2 per cent is projected to be 80 or older compared to 5.8 per cent in 2019.

The number of people needing long-term care is expected to increase from 19.5 million in 2016 to 23.6 million in 2030 and 30.5 million in 2050.

READ ALSO: How foreigners are changing Switzerland

However, demographic change impacts different countries and often regions within the same country differently.

When she took on the Presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen appointed Dubravka Šuica, a Croatian politician, as Commissioner for Democracy and Demography to deal with these changes.

Among measures in the discussion, in January 2021, the Commission launched a debate on Europe’s ageing society, suggesting steps for higher labour market participation, including more equality between women and men and longer working lives.

In April, the Commission proposed measures to make Europe more attractive for foreign workers, including simplifying rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the EU. These will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council.

In the fourth quarter of this year, the Commission also plans to present a communication on dealing with ‘brain drain’ and mitigate the challenges associated with population decline in regions with low birth rates and high net emigration.

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

SHOW COMMENTS