CALAIS, France: The French prime minister was set to meet EU officials in the refugee pinch point of Calais on Monday as increasingly urgent efforts to deal with migration into Europe exposed divisions across the continent.
France is expecting several million euros more in aid from Brussels, a government source said, to help deal with the thousands of migrants and refugees camped out in “The Jungle” around the northern port, hoping to reach Britain.
But Calais is only a footnote in the ever-growing efforts to manage the biggest movement of people since World War II, with more than 300,000 arriving in Europe this year thanks largely to a rash of conflicts in the Middle East.
“Europe is mobilizing,” Manuel Valls said as he arrived in Calais, countering comments made Sunday by Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi that “Europe needs to stop being moved and start moving.”
Home affairs ministers will meet on September 14 in Brussels to try and “strengthen the European response.”
But deep divisions have emerged among the EU’s 28 members.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Sunday said it was “scandalous” that some Eastern European countries were refusing to accept more migrants and added Hungary’s construction of a barrier to stop new arrivals “did not respect Europe’s common values.”
The discovery last week of 71 decomposing corpses in an abandoned truck on an Austrian motorway once again highlighted the horrific dangers to which migrants and refugees are exposed, while some 2,500 have died trying to make the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea in rickety boats.
‘In a labyrinth’
Most migrants land in Italy or Greece, then try to head towards the wealthier countries of northern Europe, though many obstacles lie in their way.
“We can’t afford this at all, and every step of the way we have to pay,” Samar, 40, from Damascus, told AFP as she waited with her two teenage boys for hours in the sun at a filthy reception camp in Presevo, Serbia.
“We are in a labyrinth, going from queue to queue, and here in Serbia, the police are shouting at us like we are animals,” she said, tears welling in her eyes.
Eastern Europe is struggling to cope. Macedonia declared a state of emergency two weeks ago.