Russian attacks trigger refugee exodus from Syria
Call for EU solidarity after 100,000 flee Aleppo in wake of air strikes
A wave of up to 100,000 refugees has fled the Syrian city of Aleppo and surrounding areas since the beginning of Russian attacks there, the president of the European Council said on Tuesday, as he called on the EU to show “internal solidarity” in the face of the refugee crisis.
Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Donald Tusk said the EU’s priority should be to protect its external borders, warning that the refugee crisis had the potential to change the European Union.
“We need to restore effective external border control to start managing the situation on our borders. This has to include stopping the illegal crossings of our borders, registration of all asylum seekers, and organisation of appropriate reception facilities,” he said. “This will not in itself stop the flow. But it will reduce it significantly.”
There are mounting fears in EU capitals that more than 300,000 people could flee Aleppo should Syria’s second city fall to troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. The Assad regime has been regaining ground lost to rebels since the beginning of Russia’s aerial campaign, in support of the government, on September 30th.
Despite expectations that the deteriorating weather conditions would deter refugees from embarking on the perilous journey from Syria to Europe, the International Organisation for Migration estimates that more than 9,000 migrants a day crossed into Greece last week, the most since the beginning of the year.
In addition, the Red Cross estimates that close to eight million people have been internally displaced within Syria since the civil war began 4½ years ago.
On Tuesday Germany chancellor Angela Merkel continued to face domestic criticism for her handling of the refugee crisis. Horst Seehofer, premier of the southern region of Bavaria, demanded that Dr Merkel respond to his demand to slow the arrival of asylum seekers by Sunday.
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Both Dr Merkel and Austrian chancellor Werner Fayman attended Sunday’s mini-summit in Brussels, the latest attempt to forge a collective, EU response to the refugee crisis which has seen more than 700,000 people enter the European Union this year.
Under an agreed 17-point plan, the EU plans to create 100,000 additional spaces at reception centres in front-line member states, including 50,000 in Greece. In addition, 400 police officers are being sent to Slovenia to help with border control.