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UN official warns of new migrant crisis

China Daily | Updated: 2018-03-27 11:12

David Beasley, executive director of World Food Program, talks to children at a refugee center in Bangladesh in 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

CANBERRA - The collapse of the Islamic State group's self-described caliphate in Syria and Iraq has led to extremists mounting a recruitment drive in sub-Sahara Africa that threatens to trigger a new European migrant crisis, the head of the United Nations food agency said on Monday.

World Food Program executive director David Beasley said many of the militants who fled Syria had ended up in the greater Sahel region, a belt of semi-arid land spanning east-west across Africa and home to 500 million people.

Islamic State militants are collaborating with other extremist groups, including al-Qaida, al-Shabab and Boko Haram, to create "extraordinary difficulties" across the Sahel, said Beasley.

He has warned European leaders that they could face a far larger migrant crisis from the Sahel than the Syrian conflict generated if they do not help provide the region with food and stability.

"What they're now doing is coming into an already fragile area, a very destabilized area because of climate impact and governance, and they're infiltrating, recruiting, using food as a weapon of recruitment to destabilize so that they can have mass migration into Europe," Beasley said.

"Mother after mother will tell you that'My husband did not want to join ISIS or al-Qaida, but we had no food 'and if you haven't fed your little girl or little boy in two weeks and the alternative is signing up with ISIS, you sign up," Beasley said, referring to the group, also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

The Sahel - which includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania - is vulnerable to droughts and floods and faces constant food insecurity.

The World Food Program wants to provide stability, economic growth and sustainable development as well as food to the region, said Beasley, who was in Australia for talks with the government on funding strategies.

Beasley told the UN Security Council last week that the number of people around the world in danger of dying unless they get food urgently surged to 124 million last year mainly because "people won't stop shooting at each other".

He said by video link that almost 32 million of those acutely hungry people live in four conflict-wracked countries: Somalia, Yemen, South Sudan and northeastern Nigeria, where famine was averted last year.

Globally, Beasley said, 60 percent of the 815 million chronically hungry people who don't know where their next meal is coming from live in conflict areas.

Associated Press

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