Europe's migrant crisis

Germany, France pledge more aid for refugees

Refugees waiting in a hall near the main railway station in Dortmund, Germany, where trestle tables were laid out for them on Sunday. They had arrived earlier in the day from Hungary via Austria.
Refugees waiting in a hall near the main railway station in Dortmund, Germany, where trestle tables were laid out for them on Sunday. They had arrived earlier in the day from Hungary via Austria. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
A migrant seeking medical attention for a child suffering from heatstroke in the village of Roszke in Hungary yesterday.
A migrant seeking medical attention for a child suffering from heatstroke in the village of Roszke in Hungary yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Berlin to give extra $9.5b to help those crossing German borders; Paris vows to take in 24,000 over next 2 years

BERLIN • Germany pledged an extra €6 billion (S$9.5 billion) yesterday to help the record numbers of desperate refugees crossing its borders, while France vowed to take in 24,000 over the next two years.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the scenes of spontaneous solidarity from Germans who greeted families fleeing wars in Syria and beyond at railway stations with gifts and welcome signs were moving and "breathtaking".

Germany, which expects 800,000 asylum requests this year - four times last year's total - has become "a country that many people abroad associate with hope", she said.

But she noted that what Germany is experiencing now "is something that will occupy and change our country in coming years". She said the influx could cost Germany €10 billion next year, as she announced the additional funds earmarked to house and feed the newcomers.

In Paris, French President Francois Hollande said his country would take a larger share of the migrants and warned that without a united European Union policy to address the crisis, the borderless Schengen system would collapse.

He offered to host an international conference on Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Under pressure from Paris and Berlin, the EU is readying fresh quotas that would see the two top EU economies take nearly half of the 120,000 refugees to be relocated under a plan by European Commission (EC) chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

According to his proposal for mandatory quotas for EU states, which is set to be unveiled tomorrow, Germany would take 31,443 and France 24,031, to relieve the burden on Greece, Italy and Hungary, said a European source. Spain would take 14,931 under the plan.

The quotas could see renewed resistance from governments that say they cannot cope with such numbers. EU interior ministers will debate the proposal at an emergency meeting next Monday in Brussels.

Italy and Greece are the main entry points for refugees who reach the EU by sea, while Hungary - as the main entry point for those arriving by land across the Balkan Peninsula - has more recently become a focus of the crisis.

Migrant numbers have spiked since last Friday, when Austria and Germany threw open their borders and eased travel restrictions to allow in thousands who had made it to Hungary.

With Europe deeply divided on how to deal with the migrants, United Nations refugee chief Antonio Guterres said the crisis could be manageable if European countries all pulled their weight and agreed on a common approach.

"The European asylum system is deeply dysfunctional. It works badly. Some countries make the necessary effort, and the effort of many others is nearly non-existent."

He said the situation could be tackled "if everyone agrees on a joint action plan".

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whose nation has borne the largest burden of refugees fleeing neighbouring Syria, lashed out at the "ridiculously small" share EU countries were accepting.

He hit out at "Christian fortress Europe", noting that Turkey had already taken in over two million people from war-torn Syria and Iraq.

His remarks came just days after Hungary raised the alarm over the impact of mainly Muslim refugees on Europe's "Christian culture".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2015, with the headline 'Germany, France pledge more aid for refugees'. Print Edition | Subscribe