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Germany says it can take half a million migrants


Berlin, Sept 9: Germany said it could take half a million refugees annually to help Europe's migrant crisis as Greece's Aegean islands struggled on Wednesday to cope with another wave of desperate humanity.

Reflecting deepening concern, the European Union's president warned the EU faced a years-long refugee crisis, while the UN called on all countries of the world to join in tackling the problem.

Also read: UK to accept 20,000 refugees from Syria over 5 years, says David Cameron

Germany continues to help migrants

Chancellor Angela Merkel's deputy, Sigmar Gabriel, said Germany "could surely deal with something in the order of half a million (refugees) for several years."

And Merkel herself urged greater flexibility in EU migrant quotas and stressed that the crisis should lead to changes in Europe's policy. Germany has previously said it expects to receive 800,000 asylum-seekers this year, four times the 2014 total.

Berlin would keep accepting "a greatly disproportionate share" among EU members "because we are an economically strong country," Gabriel said late Monday.

But it was unacceptable for the EU to keep relying on just a few countries, such as Austria, Sweden and Germany, he added, saying "that's why I am certain that European policy needs to change".

With Greece's migration minister Yiannis Mouzalas admitting the island of Lesbos was "on the verge of explosion", the Greek authorities opened a new centre to process the 30,000 refugees the UN said were stuck there and on other Aegean Sea flashpoints, with Athens promising more for other bottlenecks.

Merkel herself urged greater flexibility in EU migrant quotas

Greece's migrant reception agency said it had asked the EU for emergency medical aid, bedding equipment and over 9.5 million euros ($10.6 million) to support reception services on Lesbos, Samos and Kos and send an operational unit to Chios.

Lesbos mayor Spyros Galinos said procedural pressures were easing after an additional 140 staff arrived from Athens to handle migrant and refugee registration. "Some 7,000 people were registered yesterday and we expect at least the same number today," he told AFP.

Earlier, a handful of coastguards and riot police armed with batons struggled to control some 2,500 migrants in Lesbos's main port, screaming "keep back" as the crowds surged towards a government-chartered ferry bound for Athens.

"It was horrible the last three days... There are no rooms, no hotels, no bathrooms, no beds, no anything," said Hussam Hamzat, a 27-year-old engineer from Damascus who finally got his departure papers Tuesday after an overnight wait.


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