Date
24 March 2017
(From left) French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at a press conference in Berlin on Monday. Photo: AFP
(From left) French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at a press conference in Berlin on Monday. Photo: AFP

Merkel, Hollande urge unified EU response to migrant crisis

French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a unified response to Europe’s biggest migrant crisis since World War II, Agence France-Presse reported.

“We must put in place a unified system for the right to asylum,” Hollande said in a brief statement ahead of talks with his Merkel in Berlin on Monday.

He called the influx from the world’s crisis zones “an exceptional situation that will last for some time”.

“Rather than wait, we should organize and reinforce our policies, and that is what France and Germany are proposing,” Hollande said.

The European Union has been struggling to find a response to the unprecedented numbers arriving — from the thousands landing on the shores of Greece and Italy to the hundreds risking their lives to climb onto trucks to travel from France to Britain, the news agency said.

More than 1,000 migrants and refugees arrived in EU member Hungary late on Monday, the first in a wave of about 7,000 people who found their journey to Europe blocked last week, when Macedonia declared a state of emergency and closed its Greek border for three days.

EU border agency Frontex said last week that a record 107,000 migrants were at the bloc’s borders last month, with 20,800 arriving in Greece last week alone.

With asylum-seekers coming not just from war zones such as Syria but also from countries without military conflict in southeastern Europe, Hollande and Merkel reiterated their calls for Brussels to draw up a list of safe countries of origin.

Merkel is scheduled to visit Vienna on Monday to meet leaders of Balkan states including Albania and Kosovo.

She wants to find out why “so many thousands of people are coming from these countries”, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

Other coordinated action sought by Hollande and Merkel includes the rapid setting up of reception centers in Greece and Italy — two countries which have borne the brunt of the crisis — to help identify asylum-seekers and illegal migrants.

Germany expects to take in 800,000 asylum seekers this year.

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CG

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