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‘Huge challenge’: EU preparing for migrant waves due to food crisis

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The food crisis and rising energy prices could lead to instability in some countries and prompt new waves of migration to the European Union, the Commission has warned.

Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, told reporters following an informal meeting of ministers in Prague on Monday that tensions caused by the food crisis and the sharp surge in energy prices “could lead to other insecurity situations like countries being unstable, terrorist groups being stronger, organised criminal groups being stronger.”

“That means people can find themselves in a situation where they don’t feel safe to stay in their country and then start moving. Of course, this is a huge challenge” she added. 

Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, which started on 24 February, has led to millions of tonnes of grains typically exported worldwide now being stuck in Ukrainian silos.

Grains from Ukraine fed about 400 million of the world’s most vulnerable people before the war and the lack of exports has led to prices rising on global markets. The price of wheat is now about 30% higher than it was at this time last year and about 14% higher than at the start of the year. 

The United Nations warned last month that an estimated 1.6 billion people in 94 countries are now exposed to either the food, energy or finance crises that were severely exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. It said that around 1.2 billion live in “perfect-storm” countries severely vulnerable to all three.

It added that the number of severely food insecure people, which has doubled over the past two years from 135 million to 276 million due to the pandemic, could rise to 323 million. 

The cost-of-living crisis, it underlined, could spark a “cycle of social unrest leading to political instability”.

Johansson told reporters it is currently impossible to predict how many people could try to reach the European Union in response to the crises but that work is underway to prepare.

“We’re working on contingency planning if a lot of more people would come to the European Union, how well prepared we are for this; but second, of course, we try to avoid this from happening and that is why it seems so important to reach out to partner countries,” she said.

Brussels will for instance sign an operational anti-smuggling partnership with Niger to support the country and help stabilise it, she added, stressing that “we should not wait until we have a crisis at our border, we also need to reach out (to partner countries) earlier on.”

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