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Germany, France demand changes to EU refugee-sharing plan

Migrants wait to disembark from the Italian Coast Guard ship Peluso, on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, Sunday, May 31, 2015. Around 75,000 migrants have been picked up trying to enter Italy and Greece from Libya so far this year. More than 1,800 are feared to have died. Most rescue emergencies happen some 40 nautical miles from Libya. (AP Photo/Mauro Buccarello)

BRUSSELS — France and Germany have come out against new proposals to share out refugees arriving in Italy and Greece with the rest of the European Union, insisting on yesterday that the plan doesn't take fair account of the number of refugees they already take on.

The EU's executive Commission has a plan to deal with 40,000 Syrian and Eritrean refugees over the next two years, many of whom arrive following a perilous sea crossing. The system would see France and Germany host many of them.

The French and German interior ministers said in a statement that the formula "should take more properly into account the efforts already made by member states regarding international protection, and other forms of assistance."

They also said that front-line countries like Italy and Greece can only expect solidarity from their partners if they "take all the legal and financial measures needed" to beef up the EU's borders to the outside world.

Italy and Greece have been accused by some EU countries of failing to properly screen newly arrived migrants, instead simply allowing them to move further north into Europe.

The Commission will also propose a permanent refugee-relocation system at the end of this year for use during high migration flows. The two ministers insisted that it should "remain temporary and exceptional."

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Reacting to their statement, EU migration spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said that the Commission is "of course ready to discuss the details" of its plans with the 28 member states.

yesterday sees the start of a two-day meeting between the ministers and their counterparts from Italy, Poland, Spain and Britain, as well as senior US and EU officials, in eastern Germany.

The Commission's refugee proposals must be endorsed by member nations and the European Parliament.

Meanwhile, the EU's Frontex border agency said on Sunday that more than 5,000 migrants aboard 25 boats coming from Libya had been plucked from the central Mediterranean in three days. Seventeen bodies were recovered.

"This is the biggest wave of migrants we have seen in 2015," Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri said.

More than 36,000 migrants have arrived in Italy since January. The International Organization for Migration estimates that 1,820 people have died or gone missing crossing the Mediterranean this year.

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