BERLIN – (AA) German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have presented joint proposals to EU leaders for resettlement of illegal migrants across all EU member states, officials announced on Friday.
German government’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said at a press conference in Berlin that Merkel and Hollande presented concrete proposals in a joint letter sent to presidents of the European Commission and the European Council, and Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.
“Franco-German proposals include common measures on the registration, admission and resettlements of the refugees,” Seibert said.
“We need a sustainable and binding mechanism for a fair, solidary distribution of refugees across all EU member states,” he said.
As one of the key elements of the proposals, Seibert mentioned opening migrant reception centers initially in the two most affected countries, Italy and Greece, where asylum applications would be examined, before migrants resettled across EU member states.
“The planned initial reception centers in Italy and Greece should be opened as soon as possible, at the end of this year at the latest. European Commission should also study opening similar centers in other EU member states,” he said.
He underlined that those migrants who try to enter EU for economic interests but do not qualify for a refugee status, should be sent back to their countries on the soonest possible date.
But the applications of the asylum seekers, who escape civil wars or political pressure, should be examined in a shorter period of time, and those who were given asylum should be resettled across all the EU member states, he said.
“We believe that all EU member states must observe the agreed rules of a common European asylum system. European Commission should ensure that these rules are consistently implemented,” he said.
He noted that Franco-German proposals do not include numbers or formula on the distribution of refugees among member states, and said that these should be decided in further talks among the EU partners.
As another key element of the proposal, Seibert mentioned stronger EU support for countries neighboring Syria, which accommodate more than four million Syrians.
“Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon have been deeply affected by the civil war in Syria. They made considerable efforts to protect, accommodate and provide food supplies to millions of Syrian refugees. EU should immediately increase its support to these countries to ensure humane conditions in accommodating the refugees in the region,” he said.
Proposals also include opening centers in African countries to inform asylum seekers about European asylum policy and conditions to apply for asylum, and stronger measures in fight against smuggling and human trafficking, Seibert added.
Europe is facing the biggest migrant crisis in decades, with thousands of asylum seekers from Middle Eastern and African countries trying to reach Western Europe.
In July, a record 100,000 reached EU borders, and Germany alone expects 800,000 asylum applications, four times the number last year.
The number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean has exceeded 300,000 in the first seven months of the year, including almost 200,000 people landing in Greece and 110,000 in Italy, according to the U.N.
Syria’s neighbors Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon are also sharing a big burden.
Turkey is hosting 1.93 million refugees from neighboring Syria, including 217,000 in 22 camps, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.
The total number of Syrian refugees worldwide exceeds four million.
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