EU must defend migrants’ ‘dignity’ say leaders ahead of talks

August 31, 2015 5:53 am
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A Syrian man who lost his legs after shelling near Damascus is helped by other migrants after crossing the border from Greece to Macedonia on August 29, 2015/FILE
A Syrian man who lost his legs after shelling near Damascus is helped by other migrants after crossing the border from Greece to Macedonia on August 29, 2015/FILE
Röszke, Hungary, Aug 31 – European Union leaders called for action to defend the “dignity” of migrants ahead of fresh emergency talks, as tensions flared on the bloc’s eastern borders over the escalating crisis.

Home affairs ministers will meet on September 14 in Brussels to try and “strengthen the European response” to the influx, said Luxembourg, which holds the rotating EU presidency.

“Europe needs to stop being moved and start moving,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said, calling again for a fairer distribution of migrants among the European Union’s 28 members.

Europe has been struggling to cope with the record numbers of people flooding across its borders — some 300,000 this year alone, according to the UN — in a crisis which has exposed deep divisions within the bloc.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Sunday said it was “scandalous” some Eastern European countries were refusing to accept more migrants and said Hungary’s construction of a barrier to stop new arrivals “did not respect Europe’s common values” — drawing an angry response from Budapest.

The discovery of 71 decomposing corpses in an abandoned truck on an Austrian motorway last week has served as a chilling reminder of Europe’s failure to help those fleeing persecution in the Middle East and Africa.

Some 2,500 have died trying to make the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea in rickety boats — the latest shipwreck claiming 111 lives — while many more have poured in through the bloc’s eastern borders.

Hungarian police said a fifth suspected human trafficker had been arrested over Thursday’s gruesome discovery in the truck, even as Austrian police said three children rescued from another van had “vanished” from hospital.

People “fleeing war, persecution, torture, oppression, must be welcomed” and treated with “dignity,” said French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, while Pope Francis meanwhile called for “effective cooperation” against “crimes that are an offence to the whole of humanity”.

– ‘Peace be with you’ –

The migrants crossing the Mediterranean head either for Italy, where another 513 arrived on Sunday, adding to some 108,000 this year, or Greece, which many also reach overland via Turkey.

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