U.S. Weighs Offering More Help As Migrants Arrive In Europe

September 8, 2015

With thousands of Syrian refugees and other migrants finally reaching havens in Germany and other European countries — and thousands more arriving daily — the Obama administration says it’s “actively considering” ways to help, including allowing more refugees into the U.S.

The migrant crisis has placed stress on infrastructure in Greece, Macedonia and Hungary. It has also highlighted divisions between European Union countries.

While Germany’s vice chancellor said Tuesday that his country could accept at least 500,000 migrants annually, he also called for other European countries to do more. But in Hungary, where a bottleneck had trapped thousands of migrants in large camps before neighboring borders were opened, the prime minister is urging the completion of a 13-foot fence at its border with Serbia before the end of this year.

“Hungary says the migrants are mostly fleeing bad economic conditions, and don’t need asylum status to protect their lives,” NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley reports. “Hungarian police are hindering migrants in their trek through southeast Europe toward the West. Romania says migrant quotas are not the solution; the EU says countries must come together in solidarity if Europe is to surmount the crisis.”

On Monday, both France and Britain pledged to accept thousands of migrants, but the numbers — 24,000 for France and 20,000 for Britain — are vastly different from the pace set by Germany, which over this past weekend welcomed at least 20,000 migrants. Chancellor Angela Merkel also said that Germany is devoting $6.7 billion to cope with the crisis.

As for what steps the U.S. might take, the White House says it is looking at “a range of approaches to be more responsive to the global refugee crisis, including with regard to refugee resettlement.”

The administration adds that with the U.S. having provided over $4 billion in humanitarian assistance since the Syrian crisis began, and over $1 billion in assistance this year, “The U.S. is the single largest donor to the Syrian crisis.”

So far in 2015, more than 367,000 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to seek safety and better prospects in Europe, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency. Of that number, more than 244,000 made their landing in Greece; at least 121,000 reached Italy.

The U.N. agency says the number of migrants rose sharply in August, to nearly 130,000.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.