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Germany calls for flexibility as EU prepares migrant quota plan

Update: September, 09/2015 - 11:01

BERLIN — Germany has called for a flexible system to allocate migrants as the EU prepared to announce a quota plan today, while Greek islands grapple with a huge backlog of people desperate to reach Western Europe.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker is preparing to unveil proposals for mandatory quotas that would relocate some 120,000 refugees across the bloc from border states that are swamped by the crisis.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- whose country expects 800,000 claims this year and has said it could take half a million refugees annually over several years -- said the plan "was an important first step," but cautioned against rigid ceilings.

"We need an open system to share out those with a right to asylum," Merkel said after talks with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, whose country has also been more welcoming to migrants.

"There is another step that needs to be taken because neither Germany nor Sweden can determine the number of refugees" given the unfolding situation on the ground, she said.

Under the EU plan, Germany would take more than 31,000 migrants, France 24,000 and Spain almost 15,000. Australia, which has maintained a hard line on asylum-seekers, also pledged separately Wednesday to take in 12,000.

France has already agreed to take the 24,000 over two years and British Prime Minister David Cameron has said Britain can take 20,000 over five years, although opposition leaders in London have called for him to go further.

But mandatory quotas have faced stiff opposition from states such as Hungary that are on the front line of Europe's largest migrant crisis since World War II.

EU president Donald Tusk warned Monday that "the present wave of migration is not a one-time incident but the beginning of a real exodus" that would likely last "for many years". — AFP


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