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Merkel, Hollande urge 'unified' response to EU refugee crisis

25 august 2015, 10:01

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande called Monday for a "unified" response to the worst refugee crisis to hit the EU since World War II, AFP reports.

"We must put in place a unified system for the right to asylum," Hollande said in a brief statement ahead of talks, calling the influx from the world's crisis zones "an exceptional situation that will last for some time".

Merkel, whose country expects a record 800,000 asylum applications this year, said Germany and France also wanted all EU members to conform with existing refugee policies governing the bloc "as quickly as possible".

The German leader said she and Hollande were also in agreement that the EU must draw up a "unified" list of safe countries of origin to which asylum-seekers arriving in the bloc would be quickly returned.

Germany has been pushing for such a policy given the large portion of its asylum-seekers -- 40 percent -- coming from the Balkans.

Berlin argues that to help those from war zones such as Syria, Iraq and some regions of Africa, it needs to be able to filter out "economic migrants" more quickly. 

Merkel reiterated that registration centres must be set up at the first ports of call in Greece and Italy to be administered and staffed by the EU as a whole by the end of the year.

"We cannot tolerate a delay," she said.

Hollande underlined France's "solidarity" with Germany in calling for a "fair distribution of asylum-seekers" within Europe as well as "the dignified return of people entering illegally".

"There are moments in European history in which we face an exceptional situation -- today, it is an exceptional situation but an exceptional situation that will last for some time."

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