IOM: 2016 will be another critical year for migration into Europe

The head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) predicts 2016 will be another critical year for migration to Europe.

IOM Director-General Lacy Swing said the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe has firmly put the migration issue on the world stage. He said the world is finally catching up to the fact that human mobility, as he calls it, is a megatrend of our time.

Governments response to migrants

He noted about one in seven people today is a migrant. Of these, 232 million are international migrants and 340 million are internal migrants. He said government policies in Europe and elsewhere are not keeping pace with the vast movement of people.

“Migration is not a problem to be solved. It is a human reality to be managed…Europe is perfectly capable of managing an inflow of a million migrants …It is not unmanageable. I am not saying that what they have is easy; but, the capacity is there, if the unit were there, which it isn’t,” said Swing.

The U.N. refugee agency reports more than 1 million refugees and migrants reached Europe by sea last year. About 80 percent landed in Greece, with the rest arriving in Italy and Malta. The International Organization for Migration calls 2015 the deadliest year on record and estimates more than 3,770 people lost their lives making the perilous Mediterranean Sea crossing.

Relocating migrants

Last year, the European Union agreed to redistribute 160,000 refugees among its 28 member countries; but, the IOM’s Lacy Swing told VOA fewer than 1,000 actually have been relocated.

“We just signed an agreement with Greece to start relocations from Greece into a number of countries including the Nordics. I do not have the actual number that we are going to move from there …We expect that to get underway now. We are prepared to do it …We medically examine and move more than 300,000 people every year anyway. So, we are used to doing it. For us, it is an operational question. We are ready to go,” Swing stated.

IOM reported more than 23,000 refugees and migrants have reached Greece and Italy so far this month. Swing said it may be more difficult for people to migrate to Europe this year because tighter regulations are being imposed.

Nevertheless, he said these are unlikely to dissuade desperate people from coming and foresees large migrant flows to continue into Europe this year.


(Photo: Zalmaï for Human Rights Watch)