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Europe's leaders weigh in on best way to deal with migrant crisis

Europe's leaders weigh in on best way to deal with migrant crisis
By Sarah Taylor with REUTERS, UNHCR
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Divisions deepen and opinions differ over how the European Union should deal with the migrant crisis.


The build-up of thousands of migrants on Greece’s northern border has created further tensions among European countries.

As the United Nations announced border closures were putting the continent “on the cusp of a largely self-induced humanitarian crisis,” Europe’s leaders have given their opinions on what is going wrong.

“When half-a-million people come to Austria because they believe that they can continue towards Germany, then Austria is a waiting room, stuck in the middle – [with migrants] waved through on the one side, stopped on the other side. That’s why we were saying in February and now in March: This policy of waving through must be stopped. This disorganised chaos must be stopped,” Austrian Chancellor, Werner Faymann, told a press conference.

Last month, Austria limited the number of migrants it lets through daily to 3,200.

Is the migrant crisis making or breaking Europe? Our KAL's cartoon, from September 2015

— The Economist (@TheEconomist) March 1, 2016

Other countries along the Balkan route have also enforced tighter border restrictions.

The knock-on effect has left at least 24,000 people stuck in Greece, the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) reports.

We urge solidarity + quick action to avert a disaster in #Europe

— UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) March 1, 2016

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gave his view on what needs to be done.

“We have to deal with a problem that surpasses the powers of the country, a problem that surpasses the strength of a government and the innate weaknesses of an entire Union,” he said.

“The European Union, it seems, cannot confer on the critical issues in order to find effective solutions and justly distribute the weight.”

EU member states committed to relocating 66,400 refugees from Greece. However, they have so far pledged only 1,539 spaces and just 325 people have actually been relocated, according to UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards.

In January and February, 2016, alone around a 131,000 migrants reached Europe.

The European Commission is to float a plan to allocate 700 million euros over three years — including 300 million in 2016 — to help any EU state deal with such humanitarian crises.

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