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Saturday 21 September 2019

'Fairer distribution' of refugees needed in Europe, says Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel has underlined the need for
Angela Merkel has underlined the need for "a fairer distribution" of refugees (AP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has underlined the need for "a fairer distribution in Europe" of refugees as EU leaders prepare to meet with their African counterparts to discuss the crisis.

Germany has seen 758,000 asylum seekers arrive in the country between January and October.

Many other EU countries have been reluctant to take a significant number.

Ms Merkel said in her weekly video message: "We must speak again and again about the fact that the question of how we deal with refugees is a common question for all European member states." At least those that have signed up for the Schengen passport-free travel area, she added.

EU and African leaders will meet in Malta on Wednesday and Thursday.

Ms Merkel said Europe will discuss what countries it can conclude agreements with on taking back those whose asylum applications were rejected.

Meanwhile, Norway has launched a campaign to tell would-be refugees that the government is planning tighter immigration rules and they could be sent home if their asylum application is turned down.

A justice ministry spokesman said that the English-language Facebook page "chiefly targets people whose applications are manifestly unfounded". The page says that people who will not leave Norway voluntarily "will be returned by force".

Justice minister Anders Anundsen said the current centre-right government plans to reduce benefits for refugees up to 20% and introduce tighter immigration rules to stem the flow of asylum seekers to Norway.

Officials estimate that Norway, a nation of five million, will see up to 25,000 refugees this year, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Berlin, an anti-immigration party staged a march against the German government's migrant policies, with protesters chanting "Merkel must go" and counter-protesters shouting "Nazis out".

Alternative for Germany, which is not represented in the national parliament but has seats in several regional legislatures, staged the rally.

The party rejects Ms Merkel's welcoming approach to refugees and some protesters carried banners reading "Stop Merkel, save Germany".

Police estimated 5,000 people took part in the Berlin march and 800 in counter-demonstrations. They deployed 1,100 officers to prevent clashes and used pepper spray at one point but said otherwise there were no significant incidents.

Amid the continuing crisis, the Greek coastguard said it and European Union border agency Frontex had rescued a total of 383 migrants attempting the short but perilous crossing from Turkey to the eastern Greek islands.

There were six separate rescue operations, all this morning, with five off the island of Lesbos, the refugees' main crossing point, and the other off the island of Chios, immediately to the south.

A total of nine boats, all full with passengers, were involved. Seven of them were inflatables, with the other two a wooden boat and a plastic boat.

Seas were relatively calm, resulting in no known fatalities.

PA Media

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