Berlin – German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged up to 50 million euros (59 million dollars) in funding by the end of the year to tackle illegal human trafficking in the Mediterranean and factors that drive migrants to set off for Europe.
The funds would support operations carried out by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Merkel announced at a joint press conference with the heads of both agencies in Berlin.
“This work must not fail for financial reasons,” the chancellor said.
Courageous and visionary decision
Merkel was flanked by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and IOM director general William Lacy Swing, both of whom praised the chancellor’s efforts in tackling Europe’s migration crisis.
Swing thanked Merkel “for her courageous and visionary decision” in 2015 to open Germany’s borders to hundreds of thousands migrants and refugees stranded elsewhere on the continent.
Grandi said 20-30 per cent of people currently trying to reach Europe were entitled to international protection, acknowledging that many so-called economic migrants were among their ranks.
double the number of resettlements
The UN high commissioner also cautioned that an increasing number of people arriving in southern European countries were from Libya, warning that the transit land could soon become a major country of origin for migrants and refugees due to its internal strife.
Libya’s coastline has been a key launch point for illegal boat trips to Europe after the NATO-backed ouster of former leader Moamer Gaddafi in 2011 plunged the country into political chaos and lawlessness.
Grandi called on the European Union to double the number of resettlements from 20,000 to 40,000 this year. Political differences between EU member states have so far hindered efforts to redistribute refugees from entry countries like Italy and Greece across the bloc.