Tue, Aug 25, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Merkel, Hollande meet over migrant crisis, Ukraine

AFP, BERLIN and PRESEVO, Serbia

Migrants rush into Serbia over the border with Macedonia near the village of Miratovac, Serbia, yesterday.

Photo: AP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande were to meet in Berlin yesterday to give a new push to European efforts to tackle the biggest migrant crisis in 50 years.

The pair were also to hold talks on the resurgence of violence in Ukraine, with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko joining them later in the day.

Merkel and Hollande have put enormous political onus on resolving Ukraine’s 16-month pro-Russian uprising and returning peace to the EU’s turbulent eastern front.

The diplomatic push on migrants comes as the EU is grappling with an unprecedented influx of people fleeing war, repression and poverty in what the bloc has described as its worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Official figures show a record 107,500 migrants crossed into the EU last month and there are mounting calls for the bloc to adopt a more unified approach in dealing with the influx.

“There has to be a new impetus so that what has been decided is implemented,” a source in the French presidency said, referring to EU decisions taken in June to tackle the crisis.

“The situation is not resolving itself,” the source said, adding that the decisions made by the EU “are not sufficient, not quick enough and not up to the task.”

Their priorities include compiling a list of countries whose nationals would not be considered asylum seekers except in exceptional personal circumstances. The French and German leaders will also move to help speed up the setting up of reception centers in overwhelmed Greece and Italy to help identify asylum seekers and illegal migrants.

In Brussels, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker yesterday dismissed calls for a new EU summit on immigration, saying member states should stop dragging their heels and implement existing agreements on the matter.

In an opinion piece published in France’s Le Figaro and Germany’s Die Welt, Juncker repeated his criticism of European governments failing to take migrants from Italy and Greece.

“We don’t need a new summit. Member states have to adopt the European measures and apply them to their territory,” he wrote.

Juncker added that the EU should draw up a uniform list of “safe countries” to which migrants could be returned.

Meanwhile, at least 2,000 more migrants flooded overnight into Serbia in a desperate journey to try and go on to Hungary, a UN official said yesterday.

At least 7,000 people — mostly refugees from the brutal war in Syria — have been registered so far in the last days in overwhelmed Serbia as Europe’s worst refugee crisis in half a century rapidly worsens.

All of them entered Serbia from Macedonia, where police on Saturday re-opened the border with Greece after spending three days trying to hold back the streams of migrants, when hundreds braved barbed wire fences and stun grenades to force their way through.

“The latest developments in Macedonia have led to a congestion and we now have tens of thousands of refugees who have entered Serbia from Macedonia,” Davor Rako, a local official for the UN refugee agency said in the southern Serbian town of Presevo.

He said about 2,000 more migrants had registered at the border village of Miratovac, where Serbian authorities and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees have set up a reception centre with eight huge tents.

Buses were being laid on to nearby Presevo, where police hand out officials documents and help migrants find their way towards their next destination, the border with Hungary.

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