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Problems driving migrant crisis persist, but the welcome mat has been rolled back

The EU deal with Turkey to stem the tide of migrants crossing the Aegean Sea has seen more and more asylum seekers flocking to the western Mediterranean, with deadly results. More than 1,000 have drowned there in the past several weeks, and the ones that do succeed face an uncertain future. Gwen Ifill talks to Amin Awad of the UN refugee agency for more on how Europe is combating the crisis.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    People seeking safety in Europe are now sailing the Western Mediterranean, after Turkey and the European Union struck a deal to stem the refugee flow.

    The results have been deadly. More than 1,000 people have drowned just in the past several weeks. And both here and abroad, the debate about their fate rages on.

    For an update, Gwen Ifill spoke this week with Amin Awad. He's the director Middle East and North Africa for the U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Mr. Awad, welcome.

    On this program, we have seen the terrible stories of the hundreds of thousands of refugees coming, especially from the Mideast and Africa, trying to get to Greece, trying to get to Turkey, trying to get into Europe.

    Has that problem, has it gotten worse or gotten better since this whole crisis began?

    AMIN AWAD, Director for Middle East and N. Africa Bureau, UNHCR: I think this problem of migrants and refugees and secondary movement is persisting.

    I wouldn't say it's getting better or it's getting worse, simply because the conditions that people are fleeing are getting worse. The serious situation is not better than it was before. Cessation of hostilities ended. The resumption of fighting continued. And as a result, people are fleeing.

    The poverty and impoverishment that people fleeing sub-Saharan Africa continue to persist. There isn't a south-north collaboration, as used to be before. People are fearing — fleeing Niger, where there is conflict. There is poverty. And they seek opportunity, new places, market and labor and mobility.

    And some of them are fleeing conflict, coming from East Africa, the Horn of Africa, or the central part of Africa or the western part of Africa. So the root causes for flight are still there. And the world has to come up with more mechanisms and better mechanisms to tackle the root causes of these conflicts or poverty.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So the root causes are still there, but the welcome mat is not there anymore. In fact, it's certainly not there in Turkey, and it's certainly not there in Germany like it once was. So how does that affect the flow?

  • AMIN AWAD:

    People — the flow will persist. People will continue to try all they can to make it to safety, to make it to better places, to find opportunity or protection.

    If the welcoming mat is not there, then there ought to be equal investment in the communities where conflicts are and where poverty is, and try to stem the flow in a more dynamic and cooperative manner.

    But you also have to uphold all international instruments, the international protection, international national refugee law, the international human rights law. We have to rally around these and similar, because that's what makes the world also orderly.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But you know that, in this country, we're having a big presidential debate which circles around in part what we should be, how many refugees we should be accepting. And, in Europe, the vote, the Brexit about whether to exit the European Union to some degree also centers around that.

    Doesn't make your task an uphill one?

  • AMIN AWAD:

    It does in a way, but, on the other hand, I think there are also more people, be it politician or constituencies, or outfits, policy think tanks, politicians, parliamentarians or congressmen or senators, who know, and they can differentiate between the political hype and the xenophobia and the real issues.

    Refugees are fleeing terror. They are fleeing radical groups. They are fleeing conflicts. And they're looking for safety.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And yet people…

  • AMIN AWAD:

    They couldn't be the people to blame.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Well, that's exactly the point, yet people say that refugees themselves could be spreading the terror. That's the fear.

  • AMIN AWAD:

    Well, there isn't — there are no guarantees for us to really think this is really the truth, nor, if we look at history of refugees during the last 200 years, that they have been carrying attacks against hosts. It never happened.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    It never happened. In order for this to work, you need some financial resources. And many nations have pledged financial resources to this cause. Have they fulfilled those promises?

  • AMIN AWAD:

    London conference, February, good initiative by the U.K. and by Norway, Kuwait and others, pledges were made in good faith, but they were not made.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    How much money are we talking about?

  • AMIN AWAD:

    We're talking about $12 billion.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And how much has been…

  • AMIN AWAD:

    Two-point-five.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Two-point-five, instead of 12?

  • AMIN AWAD:

    If we are to stabilize the world and the protracted conflicts, resources have to be there.

    The other problem we have is protracted conflicts, they have been open for long, like never we have seen before, 60 million people displaced, the refugees or IDPs, because of natural disaster or conflicts. A lot of protracted situation, the world, they could not find solutions.

    I think there ought to be a new model, an approach, robust, to bring the East and the West together to make sure that conflicts are solved. If conflicts are not solved, the world will be an unruly place, a dangerous place like never before.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    That's one end of — that's the source of the flood of migrants.

    What about what happens on the other end, people who fear that their economies will be adversely affected, that their jobs will be taken?

  • AMIN AWAD:

    Stabilize the world. Find solutions to natural disaster, conflicts, and don't leave protracted situation, open conflicts.

    We have Yemen, Libya, Syria, South Sudan, a few places in Central Africa.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Do you see progress toward that?

  • AMIN AWAD:

    We haven't seen. Frozen conflicts. More and more people flee. This is a threat against political — our very stable planet. It is a threat to international security.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Frozen conflicts.

    Amin Awad, the director of the Middle East and North Africa Bureau of the UNHCR, thank you very much.

  • AMIN AWAD:

    Thank you.

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