Brussels/ Budapest/Bicske/ Lisbon, September 4
European leaders, shocked by the horrifying image of a drowned Syrian child, rushed out new proposals to address the escalating migrant crisis despite deep divisions in the 28-member bloc.
Hungary, however, hardened its stand, with its right-wing prime minister claiming the growing migrant crisis in Europe threatened to make Europeans a minority in their own continent after hundreds spent the night stranded on a train surrounded by police.
The heartbreaking images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying dead in the surf after the boat taking his family to Greece sank brought home the horror of the refugee crisis — the worst of its kind since World War II.
With tensions growing in Europe over how to handle the situation, France and Germany said they had agreed that the EU should now impose binding quotas on the numbers that member states should take in, having failed to reach such a deal in June.
"We agree that... we need binding quotas within the European Union to share the burden. That is the principle of solidarity," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters during a visit in the Swiss capital.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will next week unveil a plan for the relocation of at least 120,000 more refugees to ease the burden on frontline EU nations Greece, Italy and Hungary, a European source said.
EU president Donald Tusk also called on member states to share the resettlement of at least 100,000 refugees — far above the current agreement for 32,000.
In Britain, the Guardian newspaper reported that Prime Minister David Cameron was preparing to respond to growing pressure to accept a bigger share of refugees, by accepting thousands directly from UN camps on the border with Syria.
"Final details of the numbers, funding and planned location are being urgently thrashed out in Whitehall," the Guardian cited government sources as saying.
Cameron earlier promised the country would fulfil its "moral responsibilities", after having only accepted 216 Syrian refugees over the past year. He said the numbers allowed would be kept "under review".
EU foreign ministers are set to meet in Luxembourg on on Friday to discuss the escalating crisis, after pressure for action was heightened by the images of the drowned child.
Kurdi was seen in photos in a red T-shirt, blue shorts and shoes and lying motionless on the seashore before a rescue worker picks up his limp body.
"I was holding my wife's hand. But my children slipped through my hands. We tried to cling to the small boat, but it was deflating. It was dark and everyone was screaming," his grieving father Abdullah Kurdi told Turkey's Dogan news agency of the sinking. — AFP
Hungary's Orban warns of 'tens of millions' of migrants
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said: "The reality is that Europe is threatened by a mass inflow of people, many tens of millions of people could come to Europe."
Viktor Orban’s regular interview to a public radio came as hundreds of migrants, many of them refugees from the Syrian war, woke after a night on a packed train stranded at a railway station west of Budapest, refusing to go to a nearby camp to process asylum seekers.
"Now we talk about hundreds of thousands but next year we will talk about millions and there is no end to this," he said.
"All of a sudden we will see that we are in minority in our own continent."
Shouts of "No camp, freedom!" broke out; Using shaving foam, they wrote on the side of the train: "No camp. No Hungary.
The migrants had wrestled with police on Thursday, some throwing themselves on the tracks insisting they be allowed to remain on the train bound for a border town near Austria.
The train had left Budapest on Thursday morning after a two-day standoff at the city's main railway station as police barred entry to some 2,000 migrants. Hungary says they must be registered, as per European Union rules, but many refuse, fearing they will be sent back to Hungary if caught later in western and northern Europe.
Hungary has hit out at Germany, the most popular destination among the migrants, for saying it would accept asylum requests from Syria regardless of where they entered the EU.
Parliament in Budapest is expected to endorse on Friday a raft of measures to effectively seal Hungary's southern border with Serbia to migrants, creating holding zones on the frontier where migrants will be held while their papers are processed and potentially sent back into Serbia.
"Hungary cannot ignore Schengen rules in its procedures," said Orban, referring to Europe's zone of passport-free travel.
"Migrants must cooperate with Hungarian authorities, with the German authorities and if Germany wants to admit Syrians, it should issue permission for them to go into Germany." Orban said the new measures being debated by Parliament would be implemented from September 15.
"Everyone should be prepared for this: Serbia, Macedonia, the immigrants, the human traffickers. We ourselves will prepare for this, and a different era will start from September 15."
UK to accept thousands more refugees from Syria: Cameron
Britain will take "thousands more" refugees from Syria, British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Friday.
Cameron said Britain had already accepted around 5,000 Syrians under its existing resettlement schemes, which would continue to take in more refugees.
"Given the scale of the crisis and the suffering of people, today, I can announce that we will do more in providing resettlement for thousands more Syrian refugees," Cameron told reporters in Lisbon after meeting his Portuguese counterpart.
Britain's government has faced calls to take in many more refugees after broad media coverage of the image of a dead Syrian toddler washed up on a Turkish beach. — Reuters
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