ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Developments as tens of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in their homelands embark on a quest to seek safety in Europe. All times local.
The United Nations' top official for refugees says European Union plans to take in about 160,000 migrants are insufficient, and is urging Europe to provide asylum-seekers with legal immigration options.
Antonio Guterres said the relocation program is a starting point but not enough. Speaking in Athens, he called for the EU to accept more refugees, and expand beyond Syrians, Iraqis and Eritreans.
More than 500,000 refugees or economic migrants have entered Europe this year, four-fifths of whom paid to be smuggled by sea to Greece from Turkey.
Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said that "doesn't make sense" when they could have a legal alternative. He says: "We need to increase substantially the forms of people being able to come to Europe legally."
Hundreds of lawyers, retired judges and academics are urging Britain's government to take in more Syrian refugees, saying the offer of 20,000 is "too low, too slow and too narrow."
The letter published Monday says the U.K.'s offer is "deeply inadequate," noting that in Lebanon — a country of 5 million — there are 1.2 million registered Syrian refugees.
The lawyers say that even though the refugees have a right to legal protection, they are being driven "into the hands of people-smugglers.'"
The lawyers, many of whom have a human rights background, say many members of the European Union make it impossible for people to seek asylum via normal means of travel and that the entire system is dysfunctional.
Greek authorities say they have rescued a total 1,624 refugees and economic migrants who entered the country in dozens of frail boats from neighboring Turkey over the past three days.
The coastguard said Monday that the migrants were picked up at sea in 47 incidents near Greece's eastern Aegean islands of Lesbos, Kos, Chios, Samos, Leros, Agathonissi and Farmakonissi.
Greece is the main entry point to the European Union for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa. The vast majority pay criminal gangs to smuggle them to the eastern islands.