The European Union needs to prepare for a potentially “massive” influx of Syrian refugees from the war torn country, the bloc’s internal markets commissioner Michel Barnier told the European Parliament on Wednesday.
“We need to be prepared for the possibility of an even more massive influx,” Barnier said during a parliamentary debate on Syria.
A number of EU nations including Bulgaria and Greece have reported a strong increase in refugees from the Syrian conflict.
“The response surely should not be to close national borders, to shrink away or barricade ourselves,” he said. “This is not a strictly national issue, it is a European issue.”
“Any crisis of this size affects us all and we must be ready in a spirit of great solidarity,” he said.
The United Nations says there are now more than 2.1 million Syrian refugees outside the country and almost six million inside who have fled their homes because of the war which the UN says has left well over 100,000 people dead.
U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos has been pressing the Security Council for several months to act on the growing crisis.
U.N. agencies have a multi-billion dollar funding shortfall for their Syria relief efforts and U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon is to hold a new conference to rally financial support in Kuwait in January, diplomats said.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has asked EU nations to offer asylum to 10,000 Syrians and resettle 2,000 of the most vulnerable.
Some 50,000 Syrians have applied for protection since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, mostly in Sweden and Germany.
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