**BBC Migrant crisis: Russia and Syria ‘weaponising’ migration
Russia and Syria are deliberately using migration as an aggressive strategy towards Europe, the senior Nato commander in Europe has said**.
US Gen Philip Breedlove said they were “weaponising” migration to destabilise and undermine the continent.
He also suggested that criminals, extremists and fighters were hiding in the flow of migrants.
Migrants are continuing to accumulate in Greece, after Macedonia stopped allowing more than a trickle through.
New figures suggest last year’s total of one million seaborne migrants could be matched well before the end of the year.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said nearly 129,500 migrants had arrived by sea so far in 2016, plus another 1,545 by land. It said 418 had drowned or were missing.
The European Commission has now adopted plans to disburse €700m (£543m; $760m) of emergency humanitarian funding between 2016-18 to help tackle the crisis, says humanitarian aid commissioner Christos Stylianides.
The crisis has caused tensions to surge, with Greece struggling to cope with the influx and the European Commission criticising Macedonia for using tear gas on a crowd of migrants on Monday morning.
“The scenes we just saw are not our idea of managing the crisis,” said EC spokesman Margaritis Schinas…
‘On the road’
Gen Breedlove is the head of the US European Command as well as Nato’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
He told the US Senate Armed Services Committee that the crisis was allowing Russia to use non-military means to create divisions in the Nato alliance and Europe.
Russia and Syria’s leader Bashar al-Assad, Gen Breedlove said, were “deliberately weaponising migration in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve”.
He cited the use of barrel bombs - unguided weapons - against civilians in Syria. The only purpose of these indiscriminate attacks was to terrorise Syrian citizens and “get them on the road” to create problems for other countries, Gen Breedlove said.
**Gen Breedlove added that violent extremists, fighters and criminals - including elements from the extremist Islamic State group - were in the mix of migrants.
He said he had requested that more US forces be permanently based in Europe. Their numbers have dropped from a Cold War high of half a million to about 62,000**.
The plan agreed by the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, means EU aid agencies would for the first time work directly with the UN and other groups inside Europe, using monies usually allocated to emergencies outside its borders.