Europe accused of ‘double standards’ with Ukrainian refugees

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UNITED NATIONS – The rapid acceptance of Ukrainians fleeing Russian aggression highlights Europe’s “dual standards” for migrants, and stands against its unwillingness for people fleeing violence in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere, the head of the world’s largest humanitarian network said Monday.

Francesco Roca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said he did not think there was “any difference” between anyone fleeing the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine and the Boko Haram extremist group in Nigeria.

“Those fleeing the violence, those seeking protection, should be treated equally,” said Roka, whose organization employs about 15 million volunteers in more than 192 countries.

Speaking at a news conference, he said there was “a moral obligation” to help people survive the violence and catastrophe and “the political, public and humanitarian response to the Ukraine crisis has shown what is possible when humanity and dignity come first. Global solidarity.”

“We expected that the crisis in Ukraine would be a turning point in European immigration policy,” Roca said. “But unfortunately, that was not the case.”

He said the 27-member European Union still had different approaches to migration from Ukraine to the eastern border and the southern border of the Mediterranean.

The war, which Russia called a “special military operation,” has provoked one of the worst humanitarian crises in Europe since World War II.

Since the Russian invasion on 24 February, more than 6 million people have fled Ukraine, Poland has sheltered more than 3.3 million and more than 900,000 in Romania, 605,000 in Hungary, 463,000 in Moldova and 421,000 in Slovakia, according to the agency.

In contrast, Roka says migrants, refugees and asylum seekers trying to reach Europe are still dying, facing abuse and struggling to access essential services.

More than 48,000 migrants have died or gone missing while traveling at sea since 2014, and the deadliest route is to take migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe, where at least 19,000 have died, he said.

Those who arrive, mainly in Italy, Greece and Spain, are often kept in camps and face long waits to hear their asylum claims.

“Europe has a big heart and soul, because the European community was able to open their arms, taking millions of Ukrainians in a few days,” Roca said. “So, they lie about the threat coming from the Mediterranean, when it comes to thousands of people.”

“Race and nationality should not be a decisive factor in saving lives,” he said.

“There’s a dual value,” Roca said. “It simply came to our notice then. It catches our eye, and we can’t deny it when it comes to protection. “

Roka was at UN headquarters for the first review of the July 2018 Global Compact to promote safe and orderly migration and reduce human trafficking and trafficking. It was the first global document to address the issue of immigration and was signed by more than 190 countries. The administration of US President Donald Trump has boycotted the talks.

Although progress has been made on the compact, mainly when it comes to Ukrainians, Roka said there is still a “long way” to realize the compact’s vision and promises. He said many migrants have lost their lives due to the government’s failure to change its policy to ensure safe and dignified migration.

“The government has the right to set immigration policy and manage their borders,” he said. “They are forced to do things that prevent suffering and death.”

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