Help us out: European Union's man in Hong Kong wants wealthy Asian countries to ease burden of Syrian refugee crisis

Help us out: European Union's man in Hong Kong wants wealthy Asian countries to ease burden of Syrian refugee crisis


Asia's rich countries, including China, can do more to help ease the full-blown international crisis caused by the war in Syria, whether by donating to humanitarian agencies or by playing a more active role in peace talks, the European Union's top man in Hong Kong says
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"What we do stress is that this is not just a regional problem, it is a global problem about people ... threatened by conflict," said Vincent Piket, head of the EU's office in Hong Kong and Macau.

The EU's top diplomat in HK, Vincent Piket, want Asia to help Europe ease the Syrian refugee crisis
His comments come as the EU's 28 member states grapple with the challenges posed by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees on their shores.
Figures from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs show China contributed just US$14 million for humanitarian work in Syria in the past 41/2 years, compared to US$4.2 billion from the United States, US$1 billion from Germany and US$1.5 billion from the UN. Even South Korea put in more, at US$15 million.
Piket said his office was working not just to raise awareness of the refugee crisis - which has received minimal attention in Asia - but also urging Asian countries to support work to cope with what has been dubbed Europe's biggest humanitarian crisis since the second world war.
"We are talking about an international problem that also requires an international response," he said. ""We from the EU side are convinced that we are on the right track. … Should others do more? Yes, I'm sure they should. Like other rich parts of the world … will chip in, including rich countries from Asia."

Refugees crowd into a registration centre in Greece.
Dr Roland Vogt, an international relations scholar at the University of Hong Kong, agreed Asian countries could do more, either by giving money or taking in refugees. President Xi Jinping's earlier pledge to set up a peacekeeping force could be a sign of China taking a bigger global role - though it remained to be seen whether words translated into action, Vogt said.
"That kind of [humanitarian aid] culture is not part of the political culture in China and Hong Kong - it's more prominent in Western democracy," Vogt said. "Most probably mainland Chinese and Hongkongers would criticise their governments for helping [refugees]."
The fact human rights and global responsibilities were low on the political agenda kept Asian countries from chipping in to relive the Syrian crisis, he added.
"I'm not aware of China playing a bigger mediating role either, and I wonder why not," Vogt said. "Some individual Asians are very generous and take active interest in aid, but as a political culture - it's not there yet."
Hongkongers have donated some HK$7.2 million to the UNHCR since 2012.
There are only 250,000 known refugees on the mainland - most from North Korea, Vogt said. The Chinese legal system was not prepared to deal with them.
Julia Mayerhofer from the Asia Pacific Refuge Rights Network in Thailand said legal gaps in Southeast Asian countries kept refugees from being fairly treated, similarly in mainland China.
"The media is another big problem here in Asia. Refugees are painted as all economic migrants - which is not true," said Mayerhofer, pointing out Asia had its own crises, including the exodus of Myanmar's Rohingya.


CULLED FROM SCMP

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