BRUSSELS/LONDON: Angela Merkel will hold talks today (Thursday) to try to contain a row within her government over how to handle Germany's influx of migrants, as the EU's head of border control admitted that more than 800,000 people had made "illegal entries" to Europe this year.
The German chancellor faces a rebellion from the Right of her Christian Democratic Union over her policy of granting asylum to all Syrians.
Horst Seehofer, the prime minister of Bavaria from the CDU's regional sister party, the Christian Social Union, threatened to take unilateral action last week to halt the influx. He wants to erect "transit zones" where migrants would be processed, with those ineligible for asylum deported. Some 170,000 people entered the state in September.
But the Social Democrats in Mrs Merkel's coalition say such centres are akin to prisons and would be challenged by the courts. They favour sending refugees to processing centres already set up around the country.
"We will see whether we will reach a consensus," Mrs Merkel said yesterday. "Should we not reach a consensus, we will simply continue to negotiate. But everybody wants to find reasonable solutions."
Migrants are continuing to stream north to countries such as Germany and Sweden, which yesterday asked Brussels for assistance in dealing with its 10,000 arrivals a week. "We are extremely strained," said Stefan Lofven, the prime minister. Fabrice Leggeri, the head of Frontex, the EU border agency, warned that the flow of migrants had not yet "reached its peak".
The paucity of Europe's response was highlighted by the spectacle of 30 refugees being ceremonially relocated to Luxembourg from Greece. Alex Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, conceded that the six Iraqi and six Syrian families represented a "drop in the ocean", but added that he hoped that this drop "will become a stream and then a river of humanity".
That optimism was thrown into sharp relief by European Commission figures that showed that out of a target of 160,000 relocations set in September, only 1,418 places have been offered, with only 14 of the EU's 28 states offering to house a single refugee.
A spokesman insisted it was too soon to pass a verdict on the scheme's success, but with winter approaching figures also revealed a shortage of tents, blankets and medical equipment. There are shortfalls of 40,000 blankets, 75,000 raincoats and 1,200 tents, with 18 of the 28 EU states having offered nothing. Britain has donated thousands of blankets and tents.
Yesterday the coastguard in Cyprus rescued 26 people, mainly Syrian women and children, from a boat. Several of those saved, including a five-month-old baby, were sent to hospital after being pulled from the water in the dark when the 26ft pleasure boat in which they were travelling foundered in heavy seas off the island's south-east coast, officials said.