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France to take in 24,000 refugees over two years

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12:05 CEST+02:00
President François Hollande says France will take in 24,000 refugees over the next two years, as requested by Brussels.

France will open its doors to 24,000 refugees over the next two years, the country's president announced on Monday.

That's the number the European Commission has asked France to accept under an urgent new plan aimed at easing the growing refugee crisis around Europe.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, President François Hollande said that France is "willing to play its part".

Hollande said it was a "fundamental principle" of France to accept asylum seekers.

"It's the duty for France. The right of asylum is an integral part of our body and soul. Our history demands this responsibility," he added.

"The French are a great people forged over generations of people who sometimes have come from far away," said Hollande.

The new plan put together by European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker will be presented in Strasbourg on Wednesday and is aimed at seeing 120,000 refugees relocated around Europe over the next two years.

Under Juncker's plane Germany will be asked to take in 31, 000 refugees over the same period and Spain will be asked to take in 15,000 (see below).

"We cannot leave Germany alone to take on this responsibility," Hollande said. 

The president stressed that Europe's open borders scheme, known as Schengen, would collapse without united EU efforts to relocate migrants and refugees.

'Schengen will end unless united EU effort'

"If there is not a united policy, this mechanism will not work, it will collapse, and it will... undoubtedly be the end of Schengen, the return of national borders," he told the press conference in Paris.

Hollande's willingness to accept 24,000 refugees will put more pressure on the UK's David Cameron, who is set to give more details later on Monday on how many extra Syrian refugees Britain will accept. 

"The issue of refugees and displaced people is first and foremost an issue that affects southern countries... It affects Africa, the Middle East but also other continents including Asia," the president said at his bi-annual press conference.

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"We will propose to host an international conference on refugees in Paris."

France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve will host a meeting of mayors from across France on Saturday to discuss the logistics and possibilities of relocating refugees.

Last week Hollande and Germany's Angela Merkel called for binding quotas to be imposed on EU nations regarding the numbers of refugees they should take in.

The French presidency announced the two European powerhouses would send joint proposals to Brussels "for organising the welcome of refugees and their fair distribution in Europe" and for "reinforcing the European asylum system."
   
With the large number of refugees and migrants flooding into Europe and moving through the continent, it warned that "dramas are being followed by tragedies."
   
"Thousands of victims have died since the start of the year. The European Union must act in a decisive manner in line with its values," the French presidency said.

 

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