EU pledges $1.1 bln to agencies helping refugees
Leaders also said that task forces of experts sent to help register and screen migrants must be fully operational in Greece and Italy by November
European Union leaders, faced with a staggering migration crisis and deep divisions over how to tackle it, managed to agree early on Thursday to boost border controls to ease arrivals and to send 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to international agencies helping refugees at camps near their home countries.
The leaders also said that task forces of European experts sent to help register and screen migrants in so-called hotspots must be fully operational in Greece and Italy, and perhaps also Bulgaria, by November.
The move is intended to quickly identify migrants eligible for refugee status and relocation into other European countries, and to filter out economic migrants who are unlikely to qualify for asylum in Europe.
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“The measures we have agreed today will not end the crisis. But they are all necessary steps in the right direction,” EU Council President Donald Tusk said at the conclusion of the more than seven-hour meeting.
He added that European leaders, who have disagreed acrimoniously with one another over how best to tackle the flow of people into the continent, finally appeared to reach agreement.
“Tonight we have a common understanding that we cannot continue like we did before,” he said, adding that the crisis will only deepen.
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“It is clear that the greatest tide of refugees and migrants is yet to come,” he said. “Therefore we need to correct the policy of open doors and windows.”
The leaders also pledged to boost support to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan to help them cope with the millions fleeing the fighting in Syria.
“The more money we give to address the root causes that are driving people to leave, the less likely they will be to leave their homes,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
Around half a million people have fled to Europe so far this year in search of sanctuary or jobs. As numbers swell, nations have tightened border security. Hungary has put up a razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia and is close to completing a similar fence separating it from fellow EU member Croatia.
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