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More Refugees Pour Into Europe

September 07, 2015

by Luis Ramirez

The stream of refugees into Europe continued Monday, as both France and Britain agreed to accept thousands of people from the war-torn Mideast.

However, the numbers they have agreed to take in – France said it would take 24,000 over the next two years; Britain, 20,000 over the next five – are dwarfed by the masses of migrants streaming to new lives in Germany.

Germany has said it is willing to accept 800,000 migrants, many of whom already have relatives in the country and are being urged to join their families there.

The newly arrived refugees are communicating through their cellphones and their Facebook pages with relatives and friends who are further back in the immigration pipeline to inform them of what to expect on their journey to Europe.

Germany – Europe's wealthiest country – also said Monday it is making an additional $6.6 billion in public funds available next year to absorb the refugees into German society.

In a wide-ranging press conference Monday, French President Francois Hollande said France would begin surveillance flights of Islamic State positions in Syria, but he ruled out putting French boots on the ground as "inconsequential and unrealistic."

Hollande spoke as thousands of Syrians and other refugee seekers continued their march toward Austria and Germany, after having crossed the Mediterranean Sea to safety.

With about 350,000 migrants arriving on its shores this year, Europe faces its biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

Right to asylum

Saying the right to asylum was an integral part of France and its history, Hollande said the country would take 24,000 asylum seekers out of about 160,000 the European Union’s executive arm wants to divide among member states over the next two years. That may include hundreds of those newly arrived in Germany.

Elsewhere, British Prime Minister David Cameron said 20,000 Syrian refugees from camps in Turkey, Jordan and Syria would settle in Britain over the next five years. He said vulnerable children and orphans would be given priority.

Europe has struggled to cope with the continent's biggest migrant crisis since World War Two, with Hungary at the forefront of trying to block their passage to much wealthier Germany and Scandinavian countries.

Even so, thousands of the refugees have poured into Germany, where authorities and local residents have welcomed them with food, water and toys for children.

Germany has most recently played the role of enforcing tough financial controls on debt-wracked Greece.

But the daily newspaper Die Welt said Germany, by accepting vast numbers of refugees, had transformed itself from "austerity commissioner into benevolent host."

Quota system

Meanwhile, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban denigrated the EU's call to distribute migrants through a quota system.

Orban described his country as a "black sheep'' representing a voice of reason in the 28-nation EU.

The flood of refugees is unrelenting, with 15,000 to 18,000 stranded on the Greek island of Lesbos in what migration minister Giannis Mouzalas described as "miserable" conditions. He said two-thirds of them would be transported to the Greek mainland in the next five days.

WATCH: Related video on migrants crossing into Hungary

One Lesbos resident, Efi Latsoudi, deplored the Greek effort to cope with the influx of refugees.

''The situation is the result of our political unwillingness, or incapacity, or don't know what it is, to help these people," Latsoudi said. "We never created reception conditions, we never created a place that these people have some support, have some information in the system."

Hungary eases travels

Despite Hungary's opposition to the mass refugee migration, passage through the country is much smoother than it was last week when the central European nation seemed ready to do whatever it could to prevent the migrants from entering the wealthier western European nations.

Hungarians are now posting Austrian train schedules for the refugees at Budapest's Keleti station. Last week, police tear-gassed the migrants at Keleti who wanted to go to Austria.

One observer said the trains to Austria are now "just loaded" with migrants.

Upon their arrival at Vienna's Westbahnhof train station, the refugees are met with applause from Austrians who efficiently guide the travelers from one train to another in their journey to Germany. Very few of the refugees are opting to stay in Austria.

The train ride from Budapest to Vienna is not exactly comfortable as refugees have to wait in long lines, but at least the journey is possible, which it was not last week.

Austria has, however, said it plans to lift the emergency measure that has made that route relatively easy.

Other information in the pipeline that could change soon includes a number of holes and gaps in the razor fence at the Hungary-Serbian border. Hungary says it intends to patch the holes, but for now, refugees are streaming through.

Greece seeks aid

Meanwhile, Greece asked the EU for humanitarian aid Monday to prevent it being overwhelmed by growing refugee flows, as a minister said arrivals on Lesbos has swollen to three times as many as the eastern island could cater for.

Tensions have flared on Lesbos and nearby Kos, favored migration entry points to the EU due to their proximity to Turkey.

Interim Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas said 15,000 to 18,000 refugees were on Lesbos, an island he said could cope with 4,000-5,000. "The situation is wretched," he told state TV.

Lisa Bryant contributed to this report from Paris. Some material for this report came from Reuters.

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