Brussels: European leaders, shocked by the horrifying image of a drowned Syrian child, rushed out new proposals to address the escalating migrant crisis despite deep divisions in the 28-member bloc.
The heartbreaking images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying dead in the surf after the boat taking his family to Greece sank brought home the horror of the refugee crisis – the worst of its kind since World War II.
With tensions growing in Europe over how to handle the situation, France and Germany said they had agreed that the EU should now impose binding quotas on the numbers that member states should take in, having failed to reach such a deal in June.
“We agree that… We need binding quotas within the European Union to share the burden. That is the principle of solidarity,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters during a visit in the Swiss capital.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will next week unveil a plan for the relocation of at least 120,000 more refugees to ease the burden on frontline EU nations Greece, Italy and Hungary, a European source told AFP.
EU president Donald Tusk also called on member states to share the resettlement of at least 100,000 refugees – far above the current agreement for 32,000.
In Britain, the Guardian newspaper reported that Prime Minister David Cameron was preparing to respond to growing pressure to accept a bigger share of refugees, by accepting thousands directly from UN camps on the border with Syria.
“Final details of the numbers, funding and planned location are being urgently thrashed out in Whitehall,” the Guardian cited government sources as saying.
Cameron earlier promised the country would fulfil its “moral responsibilities”, after having only accepted 216 Syrian refugees over the past year. He said the numbers allowed would be kept “under review”.
EU foreign ministers are set to meet in Luxembourg on today to discuss the escalating crisis, after pressure for action was heightened by the images of the drowned child.
Kurdi was seen in photos in a red T-shirt, blue shorts and shoes and lying motionless on the seashore before a rescue worker picks up his limp body.
“I was holding my wife’s hand. But my children slipped through my hands. We tried to cling to the small boat, but it was deflating. It was dark and everyone was screaming,” his grieving father Abdullah Kurdi told Turkey’s Dogan news agency of the sinking.