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Merkel unveils Franco-German offer to take in Moria minors

The hosting of the young refugees from Moria would be shared out among EU member states, the source said.

FILE: German Chancellor Angela Merkel on 10 January 2019. Picture: AFP

BERLIN - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday announced a Franco-German plan to take in minors left homeless after a huge fire destroyed the biggest refugee camp in Greece, saying she hoped other EU countries would join in.

"As a preliminary step we are offering to Greece to accept refugees who are minors -- other steps must follow," Merkel told a panel discussion in Berlin, adding that the European Union must "finally assume more shared responsibility" for migration policy.

A source close to the talks told AFP earlier that Merkel, whose country holds the EU presidency, and French President Emmanuel Macron had agreed on an initiative for EU member states to take in around 400 minors from the destroyed Moria camp.

The hosting of the young refugees from Moria would be shared out among EU member states, the source said.

The final figure was still an estimate and could change depending on ongoing negotiations, said the source.

On a visit to Corsica, Macron called the initiative a gesture of European "solidarity".

"We will try to commit a maximum of European countries to receive refugees, in particular minors," he said.

The severely overcrowded camp Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos housed some 12,700 asylum seekers, including 4,000 children, before it was destroyed in a fire this week.

The Greek government said it had sent three flights to remove 406 unaccompanied minors from the island and rehouse them in "safe" facilities in northern Greece.

It remains unclear if the German-French initiative involves these minors.

But separately in Brussels, home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson told a European Parliament commission that talks are ongoing among member states on providing refuge to the 400 non-accompanied migrants.

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