European leaders commit to more shelter for refugees

EU and Balkan leaders agree 17-point plan that includes about 100,000 more places for refugees as winter looms.

    Main points of agreement
    • To increase reception capacity to 100,000 along the western Balkans route and Greece
    • To deploy 400 police officers within a week to Slovenia
    • To speed up repatriation of Afghan, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Iraqi refugees
    • To step up police and judicial cooperation actions against migrant smuggling, engaging Europol and Interpol in Western Balkan route operations

    European Union and Balkan leaders have agreed a 17-point plan to cooperate on managing arrival of refugees through the Balkan peninsula, the European Commission has said.

    Among measures agreed at the meeting in Brussels on Sunday evening were that 100,000 places in reception centres should be made available along the route from Greece toward Germany. The UN refugee agency would help establish them.

    Some 50,000 places will be created in Greece and another 50,000 on the route through Balkans countries such as Macedonia and Serbia, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said after the mini-summit of 11 nations.

    "Refugees need to be treated in a humane manner along the length of the Western Balkans route to avoid a humanitarian tragedy in Europe," Juncker said.

    The agreement comes in the wake of differences among member nations on how to tackle the continent's greatest refugee crisis since World War II.

    "This is one of the greatest litmus tests that Europe has ever faced," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    Border operations

    They also agreed to expand border operations and make full use of biometric data like fingerprints as they register and screen refugees, before deciding whether to grant them asylum or send them home.

    "We have made very clear that the policy of simply waving people through must be stopped," EU Commission president told reporters, referring to agreements to cooperate and avoid unilateral national measures that have contributed to chaos throughout the region.

    The meeting also agreed to deploy 400 police officers to Slovenia within a week to help the country cope with its overwhelming arrival of refugees. Earlier, Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar said that his country was not receiving enough help from its EU partners.

    Nearly 250,000 people have passed through the Balkans since mid-September.

    Croatia said 11,500 people entered its territory on Saturday, the highest tally in a single day since Hungary put up a fence and refugees started moving sideways into Croatia a month ago.

    SOURCE: Reuters And AP


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