David Cameron to press Europe over migration crisis


Greece Migrants
David Cameron will press European leaders to deport more economic migrants and pay more aid to countries neighbouring war-ravaged Syria to help ease the migration crisis.

Ahead of an emergency Brussels summit of European Union leaders, the Prime Minister welcomed French president Francois Hollande to Chequers, where the pair agreed on areas to push for more action.

Britain has given £1 billion in aid - more than any other EU nation - to countries neighbouring Syria that have taken in millions of refugees.

The leaders met hours after the first of the 20,000 Syrian refugees to be accepted into the Government's expanded resettlement programme arrived in Britain and EU interior ministers approved a divisive scheme to relocate 120,000 refugees from Italy, Greece and Hungary.

The new EU quota system has proved controversial as Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic voted against it, while Finland abstained, and concerns have been raised about the lack of unanimous support among the 28 member states.

Britain is not required to take part in the scheme as it is not part of the Schengen "borderless" area and Home Secretary Theresa May reaffirmed her opposition to it ahead of the vote.

After speaking for more than an hour on the migration crisis, the situation in Syria and climate change, Mr Cameron and Mr Hollande held late-night talks on the Prime Minister's proposed renegotiation of Britain's EU membership.

Mr Cameron's attempts to win support have not been helped by his refusal to sign up to the Franco-German refugee resettlement plan but the PM has continually raised Britain's aid contribution as evidence that the country is playing its part.

Mr Cameron is also expected to use today's summit to urge EU leaders to do more to tackle people-smuggling gangs.

In a statement, the European Commission acknowledged the need to tackle the "root causes" of the crisis and potential action to tackle "instability" in Europe and pressures on neighbouring countries will be raised at the leaders' summit.

Mr Cameron and Mr Hollande also agreed on the need to defeat the Islamic State, also known as Isil, and to secure a global deal at the United Nations climate change conference in Paris later this year.

During the Chequers meeting, a Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister has welcomed President Hollande to Chequers on his first visit there.

"Before dinner, they held detailed discussions for over an hour on the migration crisis, the situation in Syria and climate change.

"On migration, they agreed that we must use today's European Council to focus on a more comprehensive approach, in particular increasing assistance for the countries neighbouring Syria to enable more refugees to stay there. They also agreed that EU countries should do more to return migrants who don't have a genuine claim for asylum to their countries of origin.

"They discussed how a big part of the answer to the refugee crisis must be a solution to the situation in Syria and they agreed on the need to inject momentum into the political process there. They expressed their shared concern about the threat that Isil poses to our national security and agreed that we should keep working together as part of the coalition to defeat Isil and to counter this terrorist threat.

"Finally, the Prime Minister underlined the UK support for French efforts to secure a global climate deal in Paris later this year. They both agreed to use talks at the UN General Assembly meeting next week to build further support for a deal, including on financial contributions.

"Talks will continue over dinner, with the focus on EU reform and the UK renegotiation."