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Europe accused of “double standard” on Ukrainian refugees
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UNITED NATIONS – Rapid acceptance of Ukrainians fleeing Russian aggression highlights Europe’s ‘double standard’ for migrants, clashing with its refusal to take in people fleeing violence in Africa, Middle East and elsewhere, the head of the world’s largest humanitarian network said Monday.

Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said he did not think “there is any difference” between someone fleeing the Donbass region in the east from Ukraine and a person fleeing the extremist group Boko Haram in Nigeria.

“Those fleeing violence, those seeking protection, must be treated equally,” said Rocca, whose organization operates in more than 192 countries with nearly 15 million volunteers.

Speaking at a press conference, he said there is “a moral imperative” to help people escape violence and upheaval, and “the political, public and humanitarian response to the Ukrainian crisis has showed what is possible when humanity and dignity come first, when there is global solidarity.

“We hoped that the Ukraine crisis would have been a turning point in European migration policies,” Rocca said. “But unfortunately that was not the case.”

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

The war, which Russia insists on calling a “special military operation”, has caused one of Europe’s worst humanitarian crises since World War II.

Since Russia’s invasion on February 24, more than 6 million people have fled Ukraine, Poland absorbing more than 3.3 million and more than 900,000 to Romania, 605,000 to Hungary, 463,000 to Moldova and 421,000 to Slovakia, according to the UN refugee agency.

In contrast, Rocca said, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers trying to get to Europe continue to die, suffer abuse and struggle to access essential services.

More than 48,000 migrants have died or gone missing since 2014 while traveling at sea, and the deadliest route is that taken by migrants across the central Mediterranean to Europe, with at least 19,000 dead, a he declared.

Those who arrive, mainly in Italy, Greece and Spain, are often placed in camps and face long waits for their asylum claims to be heard.

“In Europe there is a big heart and a big soul, because the community in Europe was able to open their arms, receiving millions in a few days from Ukrainians,” Rocca said. “So they lie about the threat that comes from the Mediterranean Sea, when it comes to a few thousand people.”

He said “ethnicity and nationality should not be a deciding factor in saving lives”.

“There is a double standard,” Rocca said. ” It’s obvious. It’s in our eyes, and we can’t deny it when it comes to asking for protection.

Rocca was at UN Headquarters for the first review of the July 2018 Global Compact aimed at promoting safe and orderly migration and reducing human smuggling and trafficking. It was the first global document to tackle the problem of migration and was signed by more than 190 countries. The administration of US President Donald Trump boycotted the talks.

Although progress has been made on the pact, mainly with regard to Ukrainians, Rocca said there was still “a long way” to deliver on the pact’s vision and commitments. He said the lives of many migrants have been lost due to the failure of governments to change their policies to ensure safe and dignified migration.

“Governments have the right to set migration policies and manage their borders,” he said. “They are obligated to do so in a way that avoids suffering and death.”

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