Page last updated at 09:45 GMT, Thursday, 13 December 2012

Debate on Syrian asylum seekers

The Commission and the Council have been urged to develop a strategy to deal with a potential refugee crisis following the civil war in Syria.

The UN Refugee Agency predicts that up to 700,000 people may have fled the civil war in Syria by the end of the year.

Many of the refugees have fled to neighbouring Turkey although the Turkish government is now trying to reduce the flow and starting to turn people back.

Speaking on behalf of the Council of Ministers on 12 December 2012, Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis said the EU was helping to develop a regional protection programme to provide "lasting solutions" to help the plight of people forced to leave the country.

A number of MEPs said that countries in the south of Europe - especially Greece - would receive disproportionately high numbers of refugees due to their geographic proximity.

However, Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström insisted that highest number of refugees had gone to Sweden and Germany.

Activists and observers say more than 38,000 people have been killed in the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which began last year.

International charity Save the Children has warned 200,000 Syrian refugee children are at serious risk from freezing temperatures, as winter sets in the Middle East.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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