LONDON (Reuters) - European Union attempts to tackle the migration crisis have been a failure, amounting to “too little, too late” with not enough being done to tackle people-smugglers, a committee of British lawmakers said on Wednesday.
“Europe’s efforts to address this colossal refugee crisis have been lamentable,” said Keith Vaz, chairman of the British parliament’s Home Affairs Committee.
“The atrocious conditions in migrant camps within and on the borders of the richest countries on earth is a source of shame.”
A flood of refugees from the Middle East and Asia, many escaping conflict in Syria and Iraq, has grown into Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War Two.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday more than 257,000 migrants and refugees had entered Europe by sea this year and at least 3,000 others had died.
Following a year-long inquiry, the British committee said the failure of members of the Schengen area system, which allows free passage between most EU states, had made the problem worse by failing to agree on control of its external borders.
“The EU’s March 2016 agreement with Turkey on return of migrants is arguably a first step towards a meaningful response but it has come far too late and is itself highly controversial for a number of reasons,” the committee said.
The lawmakers said too much was being left to the countries most affected, such as Italy, Greece and Turkey, and Vaz said naval deployments in the Mediterranean had failed to deter the migrant flows or disrupt people-smuggling gangs.
“The EU’s response in combating people-traffickers who are exploiting, exacerbating and profiting from this crisis has been poor,” he said.
Closer to home, the committee said recent figures suggested Britain was unlikely to meet its own target of resettling 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020, and said maintaining an agreement with France for British border checks at French Channel ports should be a priority for the British government.
There has been speculation that the deal could be at risk following the vote in June for Britain to leave the EU.
“Our priority is to offer humanitarian support to those most in need while maintaining the security of our borders,” said a Home Office (interior ministry) spokeswoman, adding that Britain was committed and on track to meet its target for Syrian refugees.
Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison