Wednesday 7 December 2016

United front on migrants urged as crisis escalates

David Chazan

Published 31/08/2015 | 02:30

Refugees sleep in a park in Belgrade, Serbia, while waiting for an opportunity to travel north to cross the border with Hungary and enter the EU
Refugees sleep in a park in Belgrade, Serbia, while waiting for an opportunity to travel north to cross the border with Hungary and enter the EU
A Syrian boy and his father at the Hungarian border

Britain, France and Germany have urged the EU to set up migrants' reception centres quickly in frontline countries such as Italy and Greece.

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Their purpose would be to distinguish genuine asylum-seekers fleeing war or persecution from economic migrants who would be sent back to their home countries.

The three countries want the centres to be set up "by the end of the year", a French official said.

The three governments also called for the EU to draw up a list of "safe countries of origin".

Applications for asylum by nationals of those countries would automatically be rejected.

The proposals came a day after British Home Secretary Theresa May discussed with her French and German counterparts in Paris the urgent need for reception centres in the countries where migrants first arrive in the EU.

A joint statement by the three ministers "underlined the necessity to take immediate action to deal with the challenge from the migrant influx". EU interior ministers will now hold an emergency meeting on September 14 to agree on measures to cope with the escalating migration crisis, saying in a statement that it had reached "unprecedented proportions".

The number of migrants reaching the EU's borders has doubled this year, with nearly 340,000 arriving between January and July, compared with 123,500 during the same period in 2014, the EU border agency Frontex reported.

Most of them landed in Italy and Greece after crossing the Mediterranean in boats.

"As long as we have not got reception centres in the countries where migrants arrive, and as long as we are not discouraging more people to cross the Mediterranean by sending illegal migrants back, this crisis will just keep escalating," a French official said.

Pope Francis appealed for better international co-operation against people-smugglers in response to the deaths of 71 migrants, believed to be Syrians, whose bodies were found in an abandoned lorry in Austria last week.

Hungarian police arrested a fifth suspect, a Bulgarian man, yesterday over the tragedy. Three Bulgarians and one Afghan citizen are already under arrest pending an investigation in Hungary.

Another truckload of refugees, including three children, narrowly escaped death when they were discovered in Austria on Saturday. Hungary has come under fire for building a fence on its border with Serbia to keep out migrants.

However, the flow is still a flood, with hundreds crossing every day.

Britain, France and Germany are also urging some EU states to revise their policy on migrants, diplomatic sources said.

Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, visibly sweating, said that people fleeing war and persecution "must be welcomed" in France and treated with dignity.

Migration is also a growing issue in the US, where Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie caused a storm over the weekend when he said that he would track foreign visitors electronically in the same way FedEx keeps tabs on delivery packages. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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