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EU warns of refugee winter 'catastrophe'

November 9, 2015

A humanitarian catastrophe is looming over tens of thousands of refugees as winter closes in, the European Union has warned. EU ministers are under pressure to deliver on their promises as the migrant surge continues.

Migrants and refugees warm themselves around a bonfire while waiting for the train heading to Serbia in a registration camp near Gevgelija on November 4, 2015 (Photo: NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Image: Getty Images/AFP/N. Doychinov

EU interior ministers met on Monday to discuss the ongoing refugee crisis as pressure has mounted on the 28-member bloc to deliver more convincingly on the promises it made to tackle the issue.

Over 770,000 people have arrived in the EU by sea this year and thousands more are expected to come. Most of them are coming to Europe from conflict-ridden Middle Eastern states like Syria and Iraq, fleeing war and poverty.

"The European Union must do everything to avoid a catastrophe as winter closes in," Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said in Brussels on Monday.

"We cannot let people die from the cold in the Balkans," he added.

Thousands of refugees living in temporary shelters in the Balkan states are in urgent need of better accommodation.

To better manage the migrant influx, EU border agency Frontex has called for around 800 extra officers but member states have so far only provided half that number.

The EU states have also agreed on a number of measures to deal with the crisis but critics say their implementation has been very slow.

"We want to keep up the pressure to ensure that the things which have been decided really happen," German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in Brussels. "We are simply too slow in the face of the still constant refugee numbers."

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that the EU "cannot systematically take time to make urgent decisions and, once they are made, take time to apply them."

shs/jm (AP, dpa)