German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that all EU countries must be prepared to send security staff to the bloc’s external borders.
Speaking as she arrived at an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels, Angela Merkel said it would be unfair to ask EU countries seeing the majority of initial refugee entries to secure borders as well.
The meeting aims to secure Turkey’s agreement to a plan to halt the flow of refugees trying to reach Europe.
Nearly 600,000 refugees have reached the EU by sea so far this year.
Describing the current situation as “very disorderly”, Angela Merkel said: “It’s quite obvious that only a few countries today take the majority of refugees and if these countries now are asked to secure the external borders on top of that, I don’t think it would be what we could call a fair distribution of effort.”
The summit aims to tackle the migration crisis by working with non-EU countries, protecting the EU’s external borders and ensuring some migrants are sent back.
Estonian PM Taavi Roivas said immediate action was needed to preserve the EU’s borderless Schengen area, which has come under increasing pressure, with some states reintroducing controls to prevent migrants from crossing borders.
Meanwhile Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban said his country would decide whether to close its border with Croatia by October 16.
Hungarian state TV reported Viktor Orban as saying he would prefer the EU to defend its external border in Greece but could seal its Croatian border “within an hour if necessary”.
There were also calls for member states to address the causes of migration by providing more money for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and for development in Africa.
“Member states need to put their money where their mouth is,” said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
Meanwhile, EU negotiators in Ankara are making “good progress” in talks with Turkish officials, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.
Turkey is hosting some two million refugees, most of them fleeing the war in neighboring Syria.
It has also called for the establishment of an international “safe zone” for refugees inside northern Syria.
The 28 EU leaders meeting in Brussels are hoping the Turkish government will sign up to a joint action plan that includes: greater financial and procedural support for Turkey to deal with refugees; gaining permission from Turkey to help patrol its coastline; combating people smuggling; strengthening return operations.
Turkey is expected to press for progress towards visa-free travel for its citizens to European countries within the so-called Schengen area.
About two million people have fled to Turkey in more than four years of conflict in Syria. Every week thousands seek to enter the EU – typically via Greece – with many heading towards northern Europe.
Germany accepted the largest number of asylum claims in 2014 and expects to see as many as 800,000 in 2015. Sweden had the second-highest number of asylum seekers.
The foreign ministers of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are to meet their counterpart from Germany and current EU presidency holder Luxembourg, amid a growing row over refugee quotas.
The Central European countries – the so-called Visegrad-four – reject quotas proposed by the EU Commission and backed by Germany.
The talks in Prague are expected to focus on this issue.
The European Commission wants 120,000 additional asylum seekers per year to be shared out between 28 EU members.
This would be a sharp increase from the current 40,000.
Photo Getty Images
In recent weeks, tens of thousands of migrants have been desperately trying to flee conflicts in countries like Syria and Libya. Many of them travel through Hungary to Germany, Austria and Sweden – wealthier EU nations with more liberal asylum laws.
The Central European nations have all rejected the proposed compulsory quotas.
This is despite the fact that each of them would take in far fewer refugees than Germany if the EU backs the proposals.
Ahead of the Prague meeting, the Czech Foreign Ministry said it was aimed at improving “better mutual understanding among EU member states… [in light of] some differing views”.
Hungary in particular has become a key point on the journey north for the migrants, with more than 150,000 people arriving this year.
On September 9, the Hungarian army started military exercises to prepare for a possible future role in guarding the border and stemming the flow of people – a move criticized by human rights groups.
A new razor-wire barrier is also being built along Hungary’s border with Serbia.
The authorities in Hungary have been told to expect 40,000 more migrants by next week.
European Union states have been asked to take in 40,000 asylum seekers from Syria and Eritrea who land in Italy and Greece over the next two years.
Under the European Commission’s latest plan, Germany, France and Spain would receive the most migrants.
The idea of using quotas to resettle those who have made it to Europe has caused controversy in some EU states.
The UK government says that it will not take part in such a system.
France, Spain, Hungary, Slovakia and Estonia have also all voiced concerns, and a final decision will be taken by EU governments after a European Parliament vote.
Denmark has the right to opt out of the plan while Ireland and the UK can decide whether they wish to opt in.
The plan applies to Syrian and Eritrean nationals who arrive in Italy or Greece after April 15, 2015. The European Commission said it could also apply to Malta if it also faced a sudden influx of migrants.
This is in addition to moves announced earlier this month by the EU for a voluntary scheme to settle 20,000 refugees fleeing conflict who are currently living outside the EU.
Of the 40,000 migrants considered “in clear need of international protection”, the Commission says:
Germany would take in 8,763 (21.91%)
France would take in 6,752 (16.88%)
Spain would take in 4,288 (10.72%)
Dimitris Avramopoulos, the home affairs commissioner, said it was not proposing “the fixing of quotas… for migration in general” and but it was “up to each member to decide how many refugees they will grant refugee status [to]”.
“We only propose – and we insist on that – a fair distribution of a concrete number of migrants in clear need of international protection across the European Union,” he said.
Countries would receive €6,000 ($6,600) for every person relocated on their territory under the latest proposal, the commission said.
More than 1,800 migrants have died in the Mediterranean in 2015 – a 20-fold increase on the same period in 2014.
Some 60,000 people have already tried to make the perilous crossing this year, the UN estimates.
Many are trying to escape conflict or poverty in countries such as Syria, Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia.
The European Commission said Italy and Greece were facing an exceptional level of migration, with Italy seeing a 277% rise in irregular border crossings from 2013 to 2014 and Greece seeing an increase of 153%.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has also urged Europe to do more to help migrants, calling for search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean to be “further strengthened”.
Earlier this month, EU ministers backed plans for a naval force to set up to combat smuggling gangs, if necessary by military force, inside Libyan territorial waters.
EU countries should take in refugees under a quota scheme, according to a European Commission proposal.
According to the UN, 60,000 people have already tried to cross the Mediterranean in 2015.
Migrants are being driven to make the journey by “horrific abuse” in Libya, Amnesty International says.
More than 1,800 migrants have died in the Mediterranean only in 2015, a 20-fold increase on the same period in 2014.
The European Commission’s migration policy, to be announced on May 13, will also propose organizing legal means for migrants to come to Europe so they do not turn to traffickers.
However, it will need to be agreed by EU states.
European leaders will discuss the proposals at a summit at the end of June.
The measures proposed by the European Commission are the latest in a series of steps designed to stop migrants drowning in the Mediterranean.
More than 200,000 migrants fleeing conflict or poverty from countries such as Syria, Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia are estimated to have crossed the Mediterranean in 2014, with thousands dying making the journey.
Quotas would be determined using a number of factors, including a country’s population, economic indicators and the number of asylum seekers previously accepted.
Germany keenly supports the idea of quotas, having received 200,000 asylum applications in 2014.
Countries such as Italy and Malta, where large numbers of migrants arrive by boat, have also called for EU members to share responsibility for migrants more evenly.
Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann has described a quota as “a question of fairness”, adding that asylum is “not an act of mercy but a human right”.
However, other EU countries are fiercely opposed to the idea of quotas.
Leaders in Hungary, Slovakia and Estonia have also objected to a quota system, with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban calling it “a crazy idea”.