With the migration crisis increasing in scope in Europe, there is a worry that EU aid may be under threat and that the budgets of the Member States are being redirected towards hosting refugees or managing security challenges. What is your opinion on this?
The migration crisis is causing great disruptions in the development sector. Many European countries are now spending 20% of their total development budget on housing refugees for just the first year. This is permitted under OECD rules, but obviously, it means that money is being diverted from other potential uses. In some cases, well over 20% of the budget is being spent on first-year refugee costs. Even apart from this, we have seen how the general crisis in the Middle East and North Africa has sucked away money for humanitarian purposes, which could have been put to different use. We face what looks likely to be a medium- to long-term humanitarian and budgetary crisis.
The EU talks about migration a great deal. I do think that it is a myth to believe that if only there were more development in the countries that are sending migrants to Europe, then the migration would stop. In the modern world, people move to seek a better life. Sometimes the more educated they are and the more resources they have, the more likely they are to move. There is no way in which you can reduce the pressure for migration simply by spending money on development projects in the sending countries. We do need to do that, but by managing expectation and migration in a more comprehensive way.
We need a highly coherent response to the refugee crisis; we also need to make sure that we respect international humanitarian law, provide adequate support to refugees in the camps, and ensure legal routes and investment in refugee resettlement according to the rules of UNHCR, and we have to rebuild the territories where conflict has taken place, chiefly because of the impact on the many millions of people involved.
The Middle East is the most visible of these crises, but there are many others – including refugees in Kenyan camps threatened with closure, who will become displaced.
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