Accessibility links

Breaking News

Refugee Crisis Could Explode Violently in Europe

Syrian refugees stand in line to receive food distributed by a non-governmental organization at a refugee camp in the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016.
Europe Refugee Crisis Could Explode Into Violence
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:04:18 0:00

Europe could soon explode into uncontrollable and widespread violence because of the refugee crisis.

That warning comes from UNHCR, or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The agency reports that 24,000 refugees and migrants in Greece need shelter. This includes about 8,500 people near the border with Macedonia. It says there are shortages of food, shelter and water. It says the areas are unclean.

Vincent Cochetel is the top representative of UNHCR in Europe. He says migrants and refugees fleeing the Balkans are stopped at border crossings. He says they do not understand that they cannot flee to other countries.

Cochtel says those countries must first permit refugees to enter. Not all of the refugees will get permission, he says.

There is “a lot of frustration building up, which may lead to acts of violence,” he says.

A peaceful protest Monday near the Macedonian border became violent when police used tear gas to force refugees and migrants to move away from a border fence.

Almost 132,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean Sea this year. Half of them are women or children. That is more than the number who made the dangerous journey in the first six months of 2015. Almost all of them have landed in Greece.

UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards says the European Union must move forward with the plan it agreed to last year to settle the refugees equally among its 28 members.

“It should concern everyone that despite commitments to relocate 66,400 refugees from Greece, states have so far pledged only 1,539 spaces, and only 325 actual relocations have occurred,” he said.

The UNHCR says Greece must quickly increase its ability to care for the large number of people that are entering the country. And it said the EU member states must work together more closely.

Separately, the American general who commands the North Atlantic Treaty Organization said violent extremists, criminals and foreign fighters are among the refugees who are entering Europe every day.

Air Force General Philip Breedlove spoke before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

He said terrorists are hiding among the refugees, increasing the possibility of attacks. He said the Islamic State terrorist group is, in his words, “spreading like a cancer,” threatening Europe and the United States.

He said the Russian and Syrian governments are using migration to weaken Europe. He said Syrian attacks on its civilians are a way to force them to flee and become a problem for other countries.

Breedlove said forcing people to flee to Europe helps Russia meet its goal of using nonmilitary efforts to weaken NATO and the European Union.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Lisa Schlein reported on this story from Geneva. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted her report for VOA Learning English. He added information provided by the Associated Press. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

frustration – n. a feeling of anger or annoyance caused by being unable to do something; the state of being frustrated

tear gas – n. a gas that makes people unable to see by causing their eyes to be filled with tears and that is used especially by the police or military to move, control or separate large groups of people