hollande i merkel.jpg
Photograph: EPA/IAN LANGSDON

French and German leaders said Friday that they were committed to securing Europe's external borders to control the flow of people fleeing their homes and seeking refuge in the bloc.

French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in Paris just three days ahead of a planned EU-Turkey summit on migration. They said a solution to the refugee crisis would only come from a unified Europe.

"In the face of the refugee question, Germany and France have the same answer: Europe. Europe must be in the position to deliver awaited solutions," Hollande said at a joint press conference. He added that France would commit a ship to NATO's border protection operation in the Aegean.

Merkel said securing the external borders and knowing who was entering were vital to ensuring security and freedom of movement within the bloc, one of the cornerstones of the Schengen agreement.

She stressed Turkey and Greece's role in controlling borders, defending European Union schemes to help Turkey financially in order to avoid illegal operations that have led to hundreds of deaths from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.

Monday's summit between EU and Turkish leaders comes amid signs that efforts to stem the crisis are failing, while border fences along the main Balkan migration route from Greece to northern Europe are stranding thousands in the south-eastern corner of the continent.

Merkel said that with movement into Europe tightening, leaders would also talk about plans to repatriate people back to Turkey.

On Thursday, Hollande met with British Prime Minister David Cameron. High on the agenda was the increasingly fraught situation at a camp in Calais, in northern France, where thousands of migrants have been staying, many hoping to cross the channel to England.

Alongside Merkel, he repeated France's commitment to accept 30,000 asylum seekers, but said his country would not take more. French authorities have been encouraging migrants near Calais to apply for asylum in France.

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