Ireland will take in at least 1,800 refugees and the U.K. will take in “thousands,” the BBC reported Friday amid mounting pressure across Europe for countries to share the burden of a flood of refugees from conflicts in their Middle Eastern and North African homelands. Leaders of the 28-member European Union have shifted positions in recent days after shocking images of a dead Syrian toddler on a Turkish beach and a standoff between Hungarian authorities and refugees at a train station continued.
Referring to the number of 1,800, Irish Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she believed this would be the minimum number. “What we have seen demands the most comprehensive response,” said Fitzgerald. “We want to respond in as humanitarian a way as possible.”
Ireland had previously agreed to accept 600 refugees, according to the Irish Times. Speaking with the Dublin newspaper, Prime Minister Enda Kenny said the country could surpass an intake of 1,800 refugees.
“Ireland can cope with more than we’ve already opted for, even though we’re outside the protocol,” Kenny said, referring the EU’s Schengen border agreement that allows for the free flow of goods and people.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said earlier this week that he did not support a plan for the U.K. to take in 10,000 refugees. Cameron and his Conservative government have now switched their position, with the prime minister declaring Friday that thousands of Syrian refugees would be admitted, though he did not provide an exact figure.
Germany has proposed a quota system that would help EU member states to evenly distribute the intake of refugees while taking into account each country's economic conditions. Fitzgerald told the Irish Times that Ireland has a favorable view of that proposal.
The justice and home affairs ministers of all EU states are scheduled to meet Sept. 14. Kenny said he expects discussions to focus on how to best allocate refugees across member states.
“If you stand on the interest of humanity and solidarity, then you had better be prepared to measure up to what is a fair and proportionate number to take and deal with in the short to medium term,” he said.
The United Nations has said Europe should take in up to 200,000 refugees.