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kolinda grabar kitarović, GLOBSEC.jpg
Photograph: EPA/JAKUB GAVLAK

Europe must urgently and clearly say what awaits the migrants who are attempting to reach Western Europe because they are confused, first having felt welcome and now having the entrance closed, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said in Bratislava on Sunday.

Migrants are confused because at the beginning they felt welcome and invited, and suddenly everything has been closed, she said. We owe them answers, they are confused as to what Europe will do, she said at "Year of Migration: What European Response?", the last panel of a three-day GLOBSEC forum on global security.

Grabar-Kitarovic said Europe had not been clear from the start as to who had the right to asylum, unnecessarily dealing with quotas instead of trying to solve the crisis at the root. Now, unless it makes the policy clear in the short term, migrants will keep on coming, she told Croatian reporters after the panel. "We owe them an explanation of what will happen."

As for quotas, which she has been criticising from the start, Grabar-Kitarovic said: "How will you distribute people if they don't want to go somewhere? Of about 700,000 people who passed through Croatia, 247 have requested asylum, and the quota that has been allocated Croatia is about 1,500."

At the panel and to the press, she said she was strongly against the land routes which migrants had used. "That only supports the illegal industry of human trafficking and illegal immigration. If we establish that migrants can go to some countries, why don't we send them directly?"

After establishing who has the right to asylum and which states wish to accept those people, it is much better to organise their transport than have a land route reopen, even if only for the number of migrants a state would take in, Grabar-Kitarovic said.

She recalled that she had been stressing from the start that this was "a long term problem which calls for a long term solution," and said that the panel should have been called "Years of Migration" instead of "Year of Migration".

The migration crisis is not a European but a global problem, and a comprehensive and long term solution should combine diplomacy, defence and development, Grabar-Kitarovic said.

The panel discussed the feeling of danger and fear appearing as well as being provoked in Europe because of migrant arrivals, resulting in the thriving of the extreme right, as well as the Turkey-EU agreement on migrant distribution.

Some of the fears are founded because people are coming with different beliefs and views, and they were also understandable because at one moment such a high number of people could not be controlled, resulting in chaos, Grabar-Kitarovic said. Fears need to be dealt with also by educating the communities to which the migrants are coming as well as the migrants themselves, starting in reception centres, she added.

As for the Turkey-EU agreement, she said cooperation with Turkey was indispensable. She said Turkey was providing for millions of people who have come from other countries and "needs our help," but added that the agreement would not solve the problem in the long term because it was crucial to deal with the crisis at the root.

The GLOBSEC forum addressed the migrant crisis, the war in Syria, Brexit, relations with Russia and the US after the election of a new US president later this year, and NATO's summit in Warsaw this summer.

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