France has said it will accept 400 refugees per month from Greece, with 30,000 to enter the country in the next two years. The move is part of a relocation deal EU members signed in 2015, but few have actually executed.
Paris' move is part of an EU-wide agreement signed last summer to reduce the pressure on frontline European states, mainly Greece and Italy.
"This week, as part of the relocation, 97 additional refugees have arrived in France fromGreece
and Italy," Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Thursday, adding that another 253 were due to arrive next week. Most of the refugees being relocated to France this week are Eritrean, Iraqi and Syrian.
A total of 160,000 refugees were due to be shared around the EU's member states, but France - like several others states - has so far fallen short of its obligations, so far taking in only 540 refugees under the reallocation plan.
Only 2,000 in total have been relocated under the scheme, after over a million arrived as refugees in Europe last year.
France has struggled to house asylum-seekers, with many setting up makeshift camps around the capital in recent months.
Paris announced a plan to build the first refugee camp in the French capital this week. Some of the migrants live in the northern port city of Calais where the French end of the Channel Tunnel to the UK is located.
Push-side also needs attention
Meanwhile, France's prime minister, Manuel Valls, said in an interview with a Greek newspaper on Thursday that the EU needs to cooperate better with African countries to tackle migration flows.
The EU is working on a deal with Turkey to slow the arrival of undocumented migrants and refugees to Greece, but has also been looking at ways to shut down flows via the other major sea route into the continent from Libya, as the summer starts and more refugees are expected to set sail.
"We need to cooperate further with African countries of transit or of origin," Valls told "Kathimerini." "I am referring in particular to Niger."
Niger is a major transit country for Africans seeking to reach Europe via Libya.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that 150,000 people, most from other West African nations, will travel through Niger this year, crossing the Sahara Desert on their way to the Mediterranean coast.
The EU allocated 1.15 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in aid to West Africa in July 2015, part of which was intended to go toward migration.
Tragedies continue daily
The bodies of at least 25 migrants who drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean were washed up near the western Libyan city of Zuwara, a Red Crescent official said on Thursday.
In three days last week, 65 people were reported to have drowned as three boats heading from the Libyan coast to Italy capsized in the Mediterranean.
Many of the boats are believed to have left from the shore around the western Libyan cities of Zuwara and Sabratha.
jbh/sms (Reuters, dpa, AFP)