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14 Sep, 2013 13:37

European politicians split over influx of Syrian refugees

The UN has reported a significant surge in the number of Syrian refugees trying to reach Italy by sea. Some politicians, meanwhile, tell RT they are troubled by the growing numbers of asylum seekers and how EU countries are going to cope.

Some 4,600 Syrian refugees have taken risky boat trips across the Mediterranean to reach southern Italy since the beginning of this year, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, reports. Two-thirds of those asylum seekers arrived in August, the agency says.

"Over the past 40 days, [some] 3,300 Syrians, of whom more than 230 were unaccompanied children, have come ashore – mainly in Sicily. Some 670 of these arrivals were during the past week," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told reports in Geneva on Friday.

While Italy is coping with the increasing number of asylum seekers, German has started accepting the 5,000 Syrian refugees it promised to shelter.

The 5,000 are coming from Lebanon, which is currently giving shelter to 700,000 Syrian refugees, and their applications will be considered by Germany’s Interior Ministry, in cooperation with the UNHCR.

Staff will examine "the relevant information in the registration papers, contact the people and ask them if they would be prepared to go to Germany," Deutsche Welle reported Stefan Telöken, UNHCR spokesperson in Germany, as saying.

While refugee groups criticize the German approach for its selectiveness and say the country could accommodate more of the overall two million Syrian refugees, author and researcher William Engdahl says Germany could do more to eradicate the reasons for the crisis instead of just trying to cope with its effects.

The problem is the EU governments continue to support the rebels, including German intelligence, and covertly in other ways. I think it’s completely cynical of Germany to pretend to be this humanitarian [host] for 5,000 refugees at the same time they are pouring aid [into the war]… Let’s stop the reason why people are leaving their homes. They aren’t leaving willingly,” Engdahl told RT.

Syrian refugees disembark from a plane in Hanover on September 11, 2013. (AFP Photo/John Macdougall)

When Syrian refugees arrive in Germany, they are supposed to spend two weeks in transit camps, where they will taught some basic German and given some help on adapting to life in the country, before being sent to various parts of Germany.  The country’s largest state, North Rhine-Westphalia, will host the at least 1,060 Syrians fleeing the conflict.

Some German politicians, like Markus Beisicht, from the Civil Movement for North Rhine-Westphalia, are less than welcoming to people fleeing the war.

Our government is opening the door,” Beisicht told RT. “It’s 5,000, then 50,000, then more and more. Our cities, like Leverkusen, can’t finance that. We’re broke. It’s not Germany’s responsibility to solve the problems of the Arab world with our taxes.”

Syria’s refugee crisis is “the gravest in the world” at this moment, according to a recent UN report, which states that, with 4 million people displaced inside the country and another 2 million forced to leave Syria altogether, the total number of Syrians forced out of their homes is 6 million.
The report also states that, in response to the US threat of military strikes against the country, an estimated 5,000 Syrians fled the country every day.
For more on the plight of the Syrian refugees in Europe, watch RT Peter Oliver’s report from Berlin.