France and Germany call for 'mandatory' intake of migrants

Attila Kisbenedek / AFP | A young migrant in Budapest

France and Germany agreed on Thursday to propose a permanent and mandatory system to take in refugees and asylum seekers, especially Syrians, in the European Union, President Francois Hollande said.


"We have proposed, with German Chancellor (Angela) Merkel, a permanent and obligatory mechanism. I believe that today what exists is no longer enough and there are countries ... who do not assume their moral obligations so we will need to go further," Hollande said at a joint news conference with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

Earlier, Hollande said in a statement that the EU “must act in a decisive manner and in line with its values” following a phone call with Merkel.

“These men and women, with their families, are fleeing war and persecution. They need international protection,” he said.

The statement added that the two countries wanted to establish consistent standards to strengthen the European asylum system, ensure the return of illegal migrants back to their country of origin and to provide necessary support to nations where migrants come from and transit through.

Merkel, speaking during a visit to Switzerland, called the refugee influx " a problem that concerns us all in Europe".

"Germany is doing what is morally and legally necessary, no more and no less," adding that Hungary, which has seen huge numbers of migrants using the country as a springboard to northern Europe, was right to say that the EU's borders had to be better protected and migrants registered.

“But of course that's not the end of it," she said. "There's also an obligation to give protection to those who deserve protection. And the Geneva Convention on refugees applies not just in Germany, but in every European member."

British Prime Minister David Cameron, meanwhile, said that the UK would stick to its present course on the issue of Syrian refugees, resisting calls to sharply increase the numbers granted sanctuary in Britain.

Cameron said he was "deeply moved" by Thursday’s widely published picture of a dead Syrian toddler washed up on a Turkish beach, prompting him to announce that Britain would fulfil its "moral responsibilities".

"We are taking thousands of Syrian refugees and will continue to do that. As I said yesterday, we keep that under review," Cameron said in televised comments.

"But ... there isn't a solution to this problem that's simply about taking people," he added, calling for comprehensive solutions to the problems in Syria and Libya, and for action against Islamic State and people-trafficking gangs.

Turkey, which is not an EU member and has borne the brunt of the Syrian refugee crisis since the conflict started in 2011, has accused Western nations of indifference to the plight of refugees, saying they shared the blame for the deaths of migrants off the coast of Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also spoke Thursday, a day after 12 migrants drowned while trying to reach a Greek island.

"It's not just refugees who drown in the Mediterranean, it's humanity, humanity!" he said, adding that Turkey was hosting close to two million refugees, in contrast to about 200,000 being hosted by "many times more" prosperous Western countries.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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