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Asylum-seekers stage appeal with Greens

Asylum-seekers from Africa camped for months in Berlin have taken their campaign for official recognition to an opposition Greens party conference. They were promised a "stronger voice" by the party's new leadership.

Asylum-seekers awaiting news on their applications from German authorities took the stage at the close of a Greens' party conference in Berlin on Sunday to appeal for help.

Party co-leader Cem Özdemir said the opposition Greens would press refugee issues in the lead-up to next year's European parliamentary election.

Nigerian Bashir Zakari, who reached Europe via Italy's island of Lampedusa and became a spokesman during protests to press authorities to speedily approve asylum applications, drew loud applause from 800 Greens delegates.

"What have we done wrong?" Zakari said in tears. "We need your help. We don't want to destroy your home," he said alongside the Greens' new leadership duo, Özdemir and Simone Peter (pictured above with Zakari).

The Greens wanted to strengthen the voice of asylum-seekers, Peter said during Sunday's closing session of the conference. Delegates focused mainly on analysis of the Greens' slump in voter support to 8.4 percent in last month's German federal election.

Migrants, mostly people from Africa who came via Lampedusa, have camped for more than a year at several sites in Berlin.

Hopes raised

On Saturday, another group of 25 ended a 10-day hunger strike and were offered temporary shelter in a church center in Kreuzberg, a district with a large ethnic Turkish community.

Federal parliamentarian Rüdiger Veit of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) told the DPA news agency on Sunday that he hoped the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees would examine the protestors' individual cases within 6-10 weeks.

Veit had held talks on Saturday with Berlin's integration senator Dilek Kolat and a representative of the federal agency.

More resources, says Malmstrom

On Sunday, the European Union's top migration official, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, called on all member states to commit more money and resources to preventing deaths of sea of migrants.

"It is clear that the increased pressure that Italy, Malta, Greece and other Mediterranean countries are experiencing is a European problem, and that a sound management of migratory and asylum flows at national level has to be accompanied by supporting initiatives and measures at EU level," Malmstrom wrote in The Sunday Times of Malta.

Her appeal came after the deaths of hundreds of migrants in two shipwrecks off Lampedusa this month, and ahead of an EU summit on migration next week.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat criticized European inaction and accused EU leaders of "only waking up when people die".

Thousands of people from Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere risk their lives on the Mediterranean each year, paying thousands of dollars to human traffickers, to reach Europe. Those drowned recently off Lampedusa included refugees from war-torn Syria.

ipj/rc (dpa, AFP, Reuters)