NATO PA seeks solutions to refugee crisis
Stavanger, 12 October 2015 – The flow of refugees into Europe risks increasing dramatically unless international diplomatic action can end the war in Syria, Jan Egeland, head of Norway’s Refugee Council, warned lawmakers from NATO nations on Monday.
Western nations should join up with Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other players to push warring Syrian factions into to talks, Egeland told the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
“That’s the way also to avoid people coming to Europe. Unless you do more of this, this is just a beginning. Instead of half a million refugees, we could easily see two million, three million coming from Syria, as well as Afghanistan and the other places,” he cautioned. “If we don’t want to build another Berlin Wall around Europe, they will come.”
Egeland warned NATO against getting involved militarily in the Syrian conflict. Instead he urged Western governments to step up efforts to find a political solution among non-terrorist factions in Syria; increase funding for the estimated 16 million Syrians needing help in their homeland and neighboring countries; and share responsibility to house the 600,000 refugees who have arrived in Europe this year.
The refugee crisis loomed large on the final day of the NATO PA’s annual session held this year in the Norwegian seaport of Stavanger.
Lawmakers quizzed NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on a possible NATO humanitarian role.
“We know NATO is not a humanitarian organization, but it cannot be the only international organization in the world that’s not directly involved,” said Beatriz Rodriguez-Salmones, head of the Spanish delegation to the Assembly. “NATO has the best men, the best organization, the best hospitals, the means of transport … this is a question of security and prevention for all of us.”
Stoltenberg replied that national governments had decided other players, such as the United Nations and European Union, were better equipped to deal with civilian tasks raised by the immediate crisis.
“The most important role NATO plays is to address the root causes,” he said. “NATO should do much more when it comes to preventing crises and stabilizing countries after crises. Sometimes I’m a bit concerned how much money we’re able to mobilize for conducting war or for launching big military operations, compared to how difficult it is to mobilize money for preventing war or to stabilize countries after wars.”