PARIS (Reuters) - French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said images of a drowned Syrian toddler on a Turkish beach showed the need for urgent action by Europe to address the migrant crisis.
“He had a name: Aylan Kurdi. Urgent action required - A Europe-wide mobilisation is urgent,” he wrote on his Twitter feed on Thursday.
The picture of three year-old Kurdi’s body washed up in the Aegean resort of Bodrum swept social media on Wednesday, leading news bulletins and front pages in the traditional press too, and spawning sympathy and outrage at the perceived inaction of developed nations in helping refugees.
His family had been trying to emigrate to Canada after fleeing the war-torn town of Kobani, one of their relatives told a Canadian newspaper on Thursday.
Italy, France and Germany have signed a joint document calling for a review of current European Union rules on granting asylum and a “fair” distribution of migrants within the EU, the Italian foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on other European Union countries to take a greater share of the refugees fleeing to the bloc as her government struggles to cope with a record number of arrivals.
A meeting of EU interior ministers is due to take place on Sept. 14.
A source close to French President Francois Hollande said Merkel and Hollande spoke by telephone earlier on Thursday on the subject and that he would make a statement later in the day.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve wrote in France’s Liberation newspaper on Wednesday that France had been at the forefront of organising help for migrants and had already undertaken reforms on asylum rights.
He said more needed to be done, but repeated the French position that the EU would need to act together and that economic migrants should be dissuaded from coming to Europe.
An opinion poll published on Wednesday showed 56 percent of French people did not want their country to open its doors to more migrants.
The poll conducted via internet on Sept. 1-2 by the Elabe polling firm specifically asked respondents if France should take refugees fleeing Syria, BFM said.
Public opinion in Germany appears more favourable than France. Some 60 percent of Germans believe their country can cope with the migrant influx, according to a poll published by broadcaster ZDF on Friday that said the pro-migrant tally had risen from 54 percent a month earlier.
Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, Andrew Callus and Brian Love; Editing by John Stonestreet and Anna Willard