Merkel decries piecemeal response to refugee crisis | News | DW | 04.03.2016
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Merkel decries piecemeal response to refugee crisis

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said it's counterproductive for EU members to implement individual measures in response to refugees entering the bloc. Merkel met with her French counterpart to address the crisis.

Merkel said Friday that border slowdowns and closures have just meant that thousands of migrants are now stuck in Greece, overwhelming the country's resources.

Merkel and Holland called for an EU-wide approach to address the hundreds of thousands fleeing conflict and poverty for refuge in Europe. Merkel added that "unilateral solutions do not help us."

Hollande seized on this theme saying it's imperative that temporary border checks are removed from the Schengen free-travel zone for the sake of European unity.

"In the end, our objective is to put Schengen back in order, which will happen through coordination, solidarity and reinforcement of our mutual resources," Hollande said at the joint news conference ahead of an EU-Turkey summit on Monday.

'18-billion-euro price tag'

Meanwhile, the EU's head office estimates that the cost of fully restoring border controls between EU member states would be as high as 18 billion euros ($20 billion) annually.

As temporary controls between member states are reinstated to deal with the migrant crisis, the fear of the full collapse of the borderless Schengen zone has increased.

This comes as EU President Donald Tusk appealed to refugees to stop trying to make it to Europe. His words have had little visible effect and have been roundly criticized by the UN's refugee agency as short-sighted.

UNHCR officials noted that 91 percent of new arrivals are fleeing war zones in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and not simply looking for work or handouts.

UNHCR Europe bureau director Vincent Cochetel said Friday that "the inconvenient truth is that refugees are still coming to Europe because there are wars in the neighborhood of Europe."

Refugees fleeing conflict have the right to apply for asylum under international law.

Griechenland Idomeni by Night All eyes on the border

Chaos may define daytime in Idomeni, where 12,000 people are camping at the Greek-Macedonian border, but the nighttime brings a strange air of peace beneath smoke-filled skies.

'There's not enough food'

More than 11,000 remain camped at the Idomeni border gate between Greece and Macedonia. Greek police say Macedonian authorities let in 320 people in the 24 hours to 6 a.m. (0500 UTC) Friday. A few dozen were being admitted later in the day.

Syrian Saswat Estif, 26, has been there for 15 days, waiting patiently as others jumped the queue to enter Macedonia. He told the Associated Press news agency that "last night was cold and it rained a lot," adding that "there's not enough food."

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the crisis has left more than 32,000 people stranded in Greece.

Asked by reporters in Berlin why Germany had so far only provided limited assistance to Greece, government spokesman Johannes Dimroth said Friday that "it's not the case that we're not prepared to help."

He added that "on the contrary the available services and resources ... have been offered and need to be requested by the Greek side. That hasn't happened yet."

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Refugees keep flocking to Greece

jar/kms (AP, Reuters)

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