Dutch PM says Europe has 6-8 weeks to handle refugee crisis

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte warns Europe, says refugee crisis must be handled within 6 to 8 weeks

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

The Netherlands' Prime Minister Mark Rutte gestures during the session 'The Future of Europe' at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland January 21, 2016

Europe has to tackle the influx of refugees from conflict zones like the Middle East and elsewhere before spring comes, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Thursday.

"We have 6-8 weeks," Rutte told a panel on Europe at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"We see today, that in the first three weeks of this year, there were 35,000 people crossing the sea from Turkey into Greece. Last year, it was only 1,600 in the full month of January. Now 35,000 in the first three weeks of this year. And this is winter,” Rutter said and warned that when spring comes, the numbers will quadruple.

“We cannot, as a European Union, at least for the Netherlands, for Germany, for other countries, we cannot cope with the numbers any longer,” he said.

“So we have to get a grip on this."

A similar warning has came from European Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday, saying 28-bloc European Union countries have about two months to tackle the refugee crisis, otherwise passport-free Schengen zone could collapse.

Rutte said on Tuesday that the Schengen zone could be saved, but first the bloc must agree on a mechanism to replace the failed Dublin system.

Refugees wait for a train to Croatia at a train station in Presevo, Serbia, January 20, 2016

The Dublin protocol which says that refugees must seek asylum in the first EU country they enter was suspended by Germany and Hungary.

Following Tusk's remarks, Sweden's prime minister speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos said he agrees that Europe should handle the crisis within two months.

"Yes I think it is in that ballpark,"Stefan Lofven said. "We know that probably when spring comes the number of refugees will increase again."

"I'm not naive," he added. "When we discuss this my argument to those countries that are not willing to accept refugees is that if we can't handle this the European Union is at risk. If we cannot do it there is a risk to Schengen."

TRTWorld and agencies