UN Warns of “Winter Tragedy” for Refugees

UN Warns of “Winter Tragedy” for RefugeesUN Warns of “Winter Tragedy” for Refugees

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has warned the European Union to speed up its response to the refugee crisis. Antonio Guterres said the bloc faces a “tragedy” if people travel during winter.

The UNHCR chief told reporters in Geneva on Friday that tragedy could occur at any moment, particularly due to the winter weather in the Balkans. Thousands of Syrian asylum seekers have crossed the region to reach northern Europe over the summer and fall, DW reported.

“We know how to winterize a camp. We know how to winterize a tent. We know how to winterize a building. We don’t know how to winterize a crowd moving every day from one country to another,” Guterres told a news conference on the eve of a visit to Greece, which includes talks with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday.

Guterres’ plea came as the Refugee Commission hailed the launch of the EU’s scheme to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers within the union. The plan intends to relieve the pressure of unprecedented numbers of refugees arriving in frontline countries, such as Greece and Italy.

“If the system is not powerful enough for the numbers coming, and is not credible enough for the people coming, what will happen is that the people will go on moving by their own means through this chaotic situation that we have today,” he said, warning that such events were “totally unacceptable and very risky.”