• Germany's news in English

Merkel, Hollande call for unified refugee response

AFP/DPA/The Local · 25 Aug 2015, 08:23

Published: 25 Aug 2015 08:23 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The crisis also threatens to hijack a summit in Vienna of leaders from the western Balkans region which Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to attend.

"We must put in place a unified system for the right to asylum," French President Francois Hollande said in a brief statement ahead of talks with Merkel, calling the influx from the world's crisis zones "an exceptional situation that will last for some time".

"Rather than wait, we should organize and reinforce our policies, and that is what France and Germany are proposing," Hollande said.

More than 1,000 migrants and refugees arrived in EU member Hungary late on Monday, the first in a wave of about 7,000 people who found their gruelling journey to Europe blocked last week, when Macedonia declared a state of emergency and closed its Greek border for three days.

An AFP photographer witnessed them finally arrive in Hungary from Serbia via a cross-border railway track, close to the southern Hungarian village of Roszke.

Their crossing comes just days before the Hungarian government deadline of August 31st for the completion of a razor-wire barrier along the length of its southern border with Serbia - which is not a member of the EU - in a bid to keep migrants out.

EU border agency Frontex said last week that a record 107,000 migrants were at the bloc's borders last month, with 20,800 arriving in Greece last week alone.

'Disastrous' economic situation

But it's not just about people fleeing violence in places like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The impoverished countries in the western Balkans are themselves the source of huge numbers of migrants.

Of the 44,000 irregular migrants detected crossing between western Balkan countries and between these countries and the EU in the first quarter of 2015, 27,000 were nationals of the region, according to Frontex.

According to Dusan Reljic at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), this is because the economic situation there is "disastrous", with growth non-existent, unemployment sky high and investment feeble.

"In Macedonia the average monthly salary is €350, less than in China," the Balkans expert told AFP. "Something like half of the people applying for asylum in Germany are from the western Balkans."

The credibility of prospects of these countries joining the EU "has largely evaporated, and the poorest of the poor have abandoned hopes of improvement and ever achieving a life with dignity."

Safe countries of origin

But Hollande and Merkel reiterated their calls on Monday for Brussels to draw up a list of safe countries of origin.

Germany in particular sees this as a priority, as 40 percent of its asylum-seekers come from countries such as Albania and Kosovo.

Merkel is travelling on Thursday to Vienna, where she will meet Balkan leaders to find out why "so many thousands of people are coming from these countries", her spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

Other coordinated action sought by Hollande and Merkel includes the rapid setting up of reception centres in overwhelmed Greece and Italy – two countries that have borne the brunt of the crisis – to help identify asylum-seekers and illegal migrants.

Merkel stressed that the centres must be set up at the first ports of call to be administered and staffed by the EU as a whole by the end of the year.

"We cannot tolerate a delay," she said.

Story continues below…

Violence against refugees

Merkel also condemned on Monday continued attacks against refugee and asylum-seeker homes that Germany has seen again this week, beginning with violent riots in Heidenau, Saxony over the weekend. 

Two different intended asylum-seeker homes went up in flames so far this week, one building in Unterweissach, Baden-Württemberg on Monday and another in Nauen, Brandenburg on Tuesday.

The fire in Unterweissach left the asylum home completely destroyed, but no one was injured. The incident is under investigation and police said they had not ruled out arson.

The Nauen fire began just days before asylum-seekers would have moved in.

Police in Brandenburg said the fire was most likely not caused by a technical problem in the building and that they were investigating whether it was arson.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Eurowings braces as cabin crew union proclaims strike
Photo: DPA

A union representing cabin crew for Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings announced that strikes could take place at any time over the next two weeks, starting on Monday.

Mysterious German U-boat wreckage found off Scotland
Photo: ScottishPower

First World War U-boat "attacked by sea monster” thought to be found off Scottish coast.

Supermarket Edeka warns of exploding apple juice bottles
Photo: DPA

"Risk of injury" from "Gut und Günstig" sparkling apple juice bottles has forced Germany's largest supermarket to recall the product.

By wheelchair from Syria to Germany: teen's story of hope
Nujeen Mustafa. Photo: HarperCollins-William Collins Publicity/Private

She tackled the gruelling 2,000-kilometre migrant trail in a wheelchair, translating along the way for other refugees using English she learned from a US soap opera. Now this teen is living in Germany and hoping to inspire others with a newly published memoir.

Berlin Zoo to have a pair of pandas by next summer
A recently born panda pair at Vienna Zoo. Photo: DPA

The giant bamboo-eating bears will move into a brand new 5,000 square-metre enclosure in the capital's Zoologischer Garten.

Two new spider species discovered in Munich
Zoropsis spinimana. Photo: rankingranqueen / Wikimedia Commons

It's news every arachnophobe in Munich is no doubt thrilled to hear: two types of spider new to the region have been discovered in the Bavarian capital - and one of them bites!

After woman's body found in barrel, husband may walk free
Franziska S., who went missing 24 years ago. Photo: Hanover police.

A woman disappeared in Hanover 24 years ago, but no one reported her missing. Although her husband has now confessed to her murder, he still may not step foot in jail.

Two injured after army tank falls 50 metres in Alps
A Bundeswehr Puma tank. File photo: DPA

A Bundeswehr (German army) soldier has been severely injured after the tank he was riding in crashed 50 metres down an embankment after going off course in bad weather.

Teen girl stands trial for 'Isis' police stabbing in Hanover
Police guard the courthouse in Celle. Photo: DPA

A teenage girl stands trial from Thursday in Germany for stabbing a police officer, an assault allegedly "ordered" by Isis but which was not claimed by the jihadist group.

Merkel threatens Putin with more sanctions on Berlin visit
Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel created a united front with French President Francois Hollande in Berlin on Thursday to denounce Russia’s “war crimes” in Syria.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd