Migrants fleeing war, persecution must be let in: French PM

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says migrants fleeing war and persecution must be let into France (AFP Photo/Jean-Pierre Muller)

La Rochelle (France) (AFP) - People fleeing war and persecution must be welcomed into France, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Sunday as Europe faces a mounting migrant crisis.

"Each asylum demand must be examined rapidly," he told members of the ruling Socialist Party gathered in the western town of La Rochelle.

Migrants and refugees who "are fleeing war, persecution, torture, oppression, must be welcomed," he said, adding that the rule should be to treat them with "dignity."

Earlier on Sunday socialist party activists observed a minute of silence in honour of the over 2,000 migrants killed since January in shipwrecks on the Mediterranean.

Valls also quoted a line from a plaque hanging inside the Statue of Liberty in New York which reads: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Valls however underscored that illegal migrants coming over for economic reasons would be dealt with "firmly."

"Our task is to find lasting responses founded on the values of humanity, responsibility and firmness," he said.