UN chief regrets 'root causes' of refugee crisis were unaddressed

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (C), Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner (R) and Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak visit asylum-seekers at a complex near the border with Hungary and Slovakia, October 19, 2015 (AFP Photo/Samuel Kubani) (AFP)
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  • Ban Ki-moon
    Ban Ki-moon
    8th Secretary-General of the United Nations

Bratislava (AFP) - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Monday more should have been done to tackle the "root causes" of the worst refugee and migrant crisis since World War II.

"We should have addressed this issue at the origin," the UN chief told reporters in the Slovak capital Bratislava before visiting a nearby refugee centre.

"If we could have handled the root causes of this issue, it would have been much better," he added.

He praised the European Union for its "serious engagement" in finding a package of solutions to the crisis, including a controversial quota system to distribute refugees around the 28-member bloc.

Ban Ki-moon said he hoped future EU moves will include a "much broader and more comprehensive solution on how to address refugees coming from Syria and Northern Africa."

"This is a top priority as winter is approaching; I think the situation will be much worse in terms of humanitarian conditions. I count on the leadership of the European Union."

The comments come as the EU is struggling to cope with an unprecedented influx of refugees and migrants amid an intense diplomatic debate over the way forward to end the four-year war in Syria, which has driven four million people from their homes.

Slovakia's leftist Prime Minister Robert Fico has said his country will take legal action to dispute the quotas adopted by the EU to relocate 120,000 refugees.

Some 500 asylum-seekers brought to Slovakia from neighbouring Austria are being temporarily accommodated at a centre in Gabcikovo under an agreement with Vienna.

Echoing wider anti-migrant sentiment in Slovakia -- and Central Europe -- villagers voted in August against the temporary asylum camp, but the interior ministry pushed ahead with it anyway.

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