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EU looks to Turkey as migrant crisis in France and Greece escalates

A migrant walks past a burning makeshift shelter set ablaze in protest against the partial dismantlement of the camp for migrants called the "jungle", in Calais
A migrant walks past a burning makeshift shelter set ablaze in protest against the partial dismantlement of the camp for migrants called the "jungle", in Calais REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

European Council President Donald Tusk urged Turkey on Tuesday to do more to stem the flow of migrants into Europe. Under a refugee action plan backed by Germany three months ago, Ankara agreed to stop migrants reaching Greece in exchange for 3 billion euros. But thousands have continued to arrive. Worse, they are now stranded. As the UNHCR warns of a humanitarian disaster in Athens, in Calais, southwest France, demolition teams continued to dismantle the migrant camp known as the "Jungle."

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"Europe is ready to grant substantial support to the countries neighbouring the war-torn regions," he told reporters on Tuesday shortly after meeting with Austria's Chancellor Werner Faymann, on the first leg of a European tour.

"But at the same time we expect a more intensive engagement from our partners... to avoid a humanitarian disaster," he stated, in direct reference to Turkey, where he is set to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later this week ahead of a crucial EU summit.

EU officials are frantically searching for ways to revive a common refugee policy after several states shut their borders leaving thousands stranded in Greece.

Athens on Tuesday issued an urgent appeal to the EU for nearly half a billion euros in emergency funds to help shelter 100,000 refugees, government officals confirmed.

The day before, scores of migrants broke through a barbed-wire security fence on the Greek-Macedonian border in a sign of deepening tensions.

"Europe is perfectly capable of dealing with this crisis if it finds a common response and a solidary solution," Thomas Liebig, economist at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) told RFI. "There is no other choice."

That's the message that Donald Tusk is putting to countries along the so-called Balkans route, the biggest entry route for migrants into Europe.

Yet many of these countries like Austria- which took in over 90,000 asylum-seekers last year- are reluctant to take in more refugees.

"These countries need financial solidarity", Liebig continued. "They don't have any experience in hosting large numbers of refugees, they lack the infrastructure, so they need financial support," he argued.

The influx of migrants has boosted the rise of populist parties across Europe. In Calais, southwest France, where there are similar pressures, authorities continued to raze part of the so-called Jungle camp, where over 3000 migrants are living.

Camille Louis, a philosopher and member of the European Collective Kompost.me told RFI that bulldozing Calais was destroying the essence of European solidarity.

"It is terrible the situation we put people in, but what the people are doing there is amazing. They have a strength and a courage to transform totally our perceptions of what is a Jungle and what is a city. I think at the moment, we Europeans are the jungle and they are the birth of citizenship."

Her association and several others recently launched an online petition opposing a French court's decision to partially dismantle the Jungle-camp.

Clashes broke out on Monday when riot police fired tear gas at migrants who were hurling stones at the demolition squads.

France's interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, has blamed the clashes on activists from the group No Borders, accusing them of harassing French officials.

Camille though disagrees: "These migrants built without nothing a school, a theatre, they set up language classes where people can exchange practices, it's really amazing. And all this is being destroyed," she said.

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