France says Syrian refugee intake insufficient, vows to double efforts

PARIS (Reuters) - France acknowledged on Tuesday that its intake of Syrian refugees had been slow and insufficient, but vowed to double efforts to meet commitments in light of a deal agreed between the European Union and Turkey. Under a pact criticized by refugee agencies and human rights campaigners, Ankara will take back all migrants and refugees who cross the Aegean to enter Greece illegally, including Syrians. In return, the European Union will take in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and reward it with money, visa-free travel and progress in its EU membership negotiations. The first Syrian refugees arrived in Germany on Monday. "The number of people welcomed is still extremely insufficient compared to our commitments and we will need to redouble our efforts," Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters during a meeting with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Paris promised in September to take 30,000 refugees over two years after European countries agreed to divide the numbers among themselves. Until now only hundreds have arrived in France compared to thousands in neighboring Germany. "We decided to relocate a part of the refugees that are in Greece to France and we want to participate on the implementation of the accord with Turkey," Ayrault said. "Germany has started, but we will also do it. We will meet our commitments, but you need time. We have numbered commitments, (but) we have fallen a little behind." (Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Tom Heneghan)