EU urges refugee action as over 1,000 migrants reach Greece

The European Union urged its 28 nations Wednesday to swiftly endorse its plan to relocate 40,000 migrants as 1,000 more migrants arrived in Greece in just one day.

The plan to relocate the tens of thousands arriving in Italy and Greece with their EU partners is part of efforts to cope with the massive influx of migrants that has already seen more than 100,000 people cross the Mediterranean into Europe this year. Around 2,000 have died or are missing.

Still, a number of EU nations have objected to the plan.

“We need to act now and not in four months,” EU migration spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud told reporters in Brussels.

Greek authorities said Wednesday that more than 1,000 people had entered the country by sea, bringing its five-month total to about 50,000 — well above the number who arrived in Greece for all of 2014.

Greece is a close second to Italy in migrant arrivals this year.

The coast guard says 670 people were rescued since early Tuesday in the eastern Aegean Sea and south of Crete, where 263 people were found in one small vessel. Another 361 were found on the Greek island of Lesbos. About nine in 10 arrivals this year came from war-torn parts of the Middle East — principally Syria — and Africa.

EU interior ministers are to discuss the relocation plan next Tuesday at talks in Luxembourg. Many object to the EUs calculation for sharing the refugees — mainly Syrians and Eritreans — saying it doesn’t take into account efforts they already make to host migrants.

“We put an ambitious proposal on the table for a relocation mechanism. We knew it would not win any prizes but we do expect the ministers … to take their responsibility,” Bertaud said.

The number of migrants arriving in Europe by sea from Turkey and Libya is expected to grow further during the traditional June-to-September high season for water crossings.

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni warned that “it would be a huge political failure for Europe” if the EU migrant plan was not quickly endorsed.

Italy is fighting to implement the plan “not because we think it magically resolves all the questions but because it is a politically important choice,” he said in Brussels.