German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the issue of migrants coming to Europe could become a bigger challenge for the European Union than the Greek debt crisis.
Speaking to German public broadcaster ZDF on Sunday, Merkel warned that waves of refugees would “preoccupy Europe much, much more than the issue of Greece and the stability of the euro.”
“The asylum issue could be the next grand European project, in which we will see if we are really able to take concerted action,” Merkel said, adding that this challenge could not be met “if we operate in standard mode”.
The German chancellor also said that she had already spoken to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker about the need for the EU to develop a common policy on asylum seekers who are marching towards Europe.
She also condemned a recent spate of attacks on shelters and tents used by migrants in Germany, saying “this is unworthy of our country. There is no justification for this.”
The German Interior Ministry has estimated that a total of 450,000 people will apply for asylum by the end of 2015.
Merkel also called for the EU to compile a list of “safe countries of origin”, where citizens are not under threat of violence or persecution.
The UN figures show that in 2015 alone, about 2,300 migrants lost their lives taking the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to EU shores in smuggler boats. Most of these migrants are fleeing hardships inflicted on them and their families in conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, blamed by many on the US-led military interventions in countries like Iraq, Libya, and Syria.
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