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EU faces 'unprecedented humanitarian, political crisis': Timmermans

04 september 2015, 11:33

Europe is facing an "unprecedented humanitarian and political crisis" as it struggles with the huge influx of refugees and migrants, the European Commission's vice-president Frans Timmermans said Thursday, AFP reports.

"We must find European responses to a problem that cannot be resolved by countries individually," Timmermans said ahead of talks with Greek Prime Minister Vassiliki Thanou on a crisis that has seen more than 230,000 people land on Greek shores this year.

"Europe is facing an unprecedented humanitarian and political crisis."

Timmermans, who is touring countries on the frontline of the crisis, said discussions with Greek officials would focus on "the best way that we can quickly implement the decisions that are necessary for us to be able to assist financially and with people and material".

He also made reference to the harrowing pictures of a drowned Syrian toddler that featured on many of the world's front pages on Thursday, saying: "There is not a person with a soul who could not be terribly shocked by the photos."

Timmermans and Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner, are set to head Friday to Kos, one of several Greek islands in the Aegean Sea that have been inundated by thousands of people -- many of them Syrian refugees -- arriving from Turkey in flimsy boats.

The numbers have soared in recent weeks as migrants seek to take advantage of the calm summer weather.

A government-chartered ship was set to ferry 1,620 arrivals to the Greek mainland on Thursday night to help relieve pressure on the islands, whose infrastructure is under severe strain.

Athens has faced repeated criticism over its response to the huge numbers of people landing on its shores, with the United Nations saying migrants were facing "shameful" conditions.

Greece's deputy shipping minister Nikos Zois said Thursday that the rise in numbers was "exponential", adding: "I don't know how anyone could prepare for it."

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