G-20 grapples with Europe’s migrant crisis

G-20 grapples with Europe’s migrant crisis

As EU officials call for unified response to refugees, OECD says ‘well-managed’ migration can benefit developed economies

Illustrative: Refugees wait outside the refugee camp in Traiskirchen, Austria, Friday, July 31, 2015. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
Illustrative: Refugees wait outside the refugee camp in Traiskirchen, Austria, Friday, July 31, 2015. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Finance ministers and central bank chiefs from the world’s top 20 economies discussed the unprecedented migrant arrivals to the European Union as the G20 began to grapple with the crisis for the first time, a Turkish minister said Friday.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) meanwhile emphasized at the meeting that “well-managed” migration could bring benefits to developed economies.

“We discussed for the first time the migration issue in the context of labor migration,” Turkey’s Labor and Social Security Minister Ahmet Erdem told reporters in Ankara after the first sessions of the two-day G-20 meeting got underway in the Turkish capital.

“Considering the rapidly aging world population and possible manpower deficit in the future, I believe the issue of labor migration will be discussed more at G-20 meetings in the coming years,” said Erdem, whose country holds the rotating G-20 presidency.

More than 350,000 migrants have risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean this year, and some 2,600 have died while making the perilous journey to Europe, the International Organization for Migration said Tuesday.

The figure from 2015 already dwarfs that of 2014, when 219,000 made the crossing throughout the entire year.

Turkey is a major crossing point for many migrants — who risk their lives during perilous journeys in the hope of finding jobs in Europe.

The pictures of the lifeless body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a beach in Bordum in Turkey’s southwest have sparked a wave of emotion in Europe which is divided over how to respond to the crisis.

‘Potential benefits’

The EU’s two heavyweights Germany and France have agreed that the 28-nation bloc, facing an unprecedented influx of migrants, should impose binding quotas on the numbers member states take in.

Angel Gurria, secretary general of Paris-based OECD, welcomed the initiative championed by French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a “structural and ambitious response” to the current refugee crisis.

“European leaders must stand before history in dealing with this humanitarian tragedy,” he said in a statement in Ankara.

He added: “European leaders need to step up to the challenge so that Europe as a whole emerges stronger economically, socially and politically.”

He emphasized that migration can help developed economies.

“OECD analysis demonstrates the potential benefits that well-managed migration brings to the economies and societies of OECD countries,” Gurria added.

Most of the Syrian refugees are scattered in neighboring countries– Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Turkey alone hosts nearly two million people who fled the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The EU also called for a “very strong and unified” response to the refugee crisis.

“The response can only be European,” Pierre Moscovici, EU commissioner for economic affairs told AFP.

“Nationalism is never the response, closing (of borders) is never the response and a lack of generosity is never the response.”

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