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Unified response to refugee crisis needed by Europe, Italian official says

ABU DHABI // European nations need a unified response to the refugee crisis to prevent the situation from worsening, a senior Italian official has said.

Andrea Orlando, the country’s minister of justice, said there should be a common policy to deal with the hundreds of thousands of people who are fleeing conflict in Syria, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, to head to the European Union.

“Italy can welcome refugees but it cannot be the only one,” he said. “They cannot just be centred in the countries that are most approachable to them.”

The minister, who was on a one-day visit to Abu Dhabi to sign agreements with the Minister of Justice on extradition and judicial cooperation, praised the efforts by the UAE to care for Syrian refugees living in the camps that it funds in Jordan.

These camps, run by the Emirates Red Crescent (ERC), are home to thousands of families who are provided with food, shelter, medical care and education. The ERC has also set up a camp for Syrian refugees in northern Iraq, with a capacity for 4,000 people.

“I got a very good impression of the stride of the UAE in ensuring very efficient services in terms of access and technology, which is an endeavour similar to what we are doing in Italy,” said Mr Orlando.

Liborio Stellino, Italy’s ambassador to the UAE, said his country has been doing its best to accommodate as many refugees as possible. “For us, they are not refugees, they are new residents that we are treating in the best way. We acknowledge enormously the whole efforts carried out by the UAE Government in humanitarian aid.”

Mr Orlando said Italy has reminded other EU countries that refugees are looking to reach Europe in general.

Under a plan drawn up by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker last week, Germany and France would take nearly half of the 120,000 refugees to be relocated from front-line states such as Italy. Germany would take 31,443 and France 24,031, to relieve the burden on Greece, Italy and Hungary.

Hungary sealed off its southern border with Serbia on Tuesday and announced plans to detain anyone trying to enter illegally.

“I think that what is happening in Hungary can question what the meaning of the European Union is,” Mr Orlando said. “The EU was born to remove borders, which sadly characterise the Cold War. The fact that, nowadays, we are again raising up walls is a defeat.”

The minister said Italy and the UAE have agreed upon the procedures regarding the exchange of detainees or people who are waiting to go on trial. “There are two people involved so far, Italians living in the UAE, but this can apply to everyone in this case.”

His visit was a first from an Italian minister of justice.

“It is very important because it is a new piece in this extraordinary mosaic of our bilateral partnership,” said Mr Stellino. “When you talk about justice, it is not just detainees, it is structured cooperation in the legal fields. These affect positively economic relations because everything is more transparent and clear to both parties and you can operate in this framework.”

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(via The National)