BRUSSELS— French and German leaders reminded other European countries Monday of their shared responsibility toward refugees, as one official blamed harsh government policy for the deaths of dozens of migrants crammed into a truck.
An emergency meeting was called for Sept. 14 on the migrant crisis in which more than 300,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean this year — often those fleeing Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hundreds have drowned in capsized boats, and 71 people were found locked in the back of a truck on the Budapest-Vienna highway.
“Europe as a whole must move and its states must share the responsibility for refugees seeking asylum,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, whose country is expected to see 800,000 asylum applications this year.
“Universal civil rights so far have been closely linked with Europe and its history — it was one of the founding motives of the European Union,” she said. “If Europe fails on the question of refugees, this close connection with universal civil rights … will be destroyed and it won’t be the Europe we want.”
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, announcing plans for a refugee center on the English Channel port of Calais, where thousands of migrants have been gathering trying to make their way to Britain, said firmness must be tempered with humanity.
“The responsibility of us all is to make sure the right to asylum … is respected everywhere. One cannot avoid it with barbed wire,” Valls said in Calais, where an estimated 3,000 migrants live in a squalid, makeshift camp.
The influx has raised tensions among neighbors, with Greece and Italy accused of failing to stop the migrants from moving farther north. Germany’s decision to allow Syrians to apply for protection there has troubled Hungary, which thinks the move is attracting more people to Europe.
Walls have been erected, razor wire unspooled, and border security stepped up, threatening passport-free travel among European nations that also permit the smooth passage of goods, services and business. About 160,000 migrants have been detained this year in Hungary, which has erected a fence on its border with Serbia.
After the 71 dead were found Thursday in the back of a truck that apparently had been abandoned by people smugglers, Austria stepped up vehicle inspections at the Hungarian border, creating a traffic jam on the highway.
William Lacy Swing, director general of the International Organization for Migration, said in an interview with The