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Posted at: Sep 16, 2015, 1:40 AM; last updated: Sep 15, 2015, 10:55 PM (IST)

Hungary locks down EU border

Hundreds spend night in the open on Serbian-Hungarian border

22 dead after migrant boat sinks off Turkey

  • At least 22 migrants trying to reach Greece by boat, including 11 women and four children, drowned on Tuesday when their vessel sank off Turkey's southwest coast. The nationalities of the migrants are not yet known
  • Turkish coastguards recovered nine more bodies, bringing the toll to 22, and rescued 211 migrants from the wooden boat which set off from the southwestern resort town of Datca for the nearby Greek island of Kos

EU split may cause more deaths

  • The failure of European Union ministers to reach consensus on a plan to share out 1,20,000 refugees could lead to further deaths in the Mediterranean, where desperate refugees on sinking boats are already calling hotlines, aid agencies said on Tuesday
  • A majority of EU interior ministers, meeting in Brussels on Monday, agreed in principle to share out 120,000 asylum seekers on top of about 40,000 distributed on a voluntary basis so far
  • But details of the deal, to be formalised on October 8, were vague with several ex-Communist central European states still rejecting mandatory quotas
Hungary locks down EU border
Detained migrants sit next to a barbed wire after crossing the border from Serbia near Asttohatolom, Hungary. Reuters

Serbian-Hungarian Border, September 15

Hungary’s right-wing government shut the main land route for migrants into the EU on Tuesday, taking matters into its own hands to halt Europe’s influx of refugees.

An emergency effort led by Germany to force European Union member states to accept mandatory quotas of refugees collapsed in discord. Berlin called for financial penalties against countries that refused to accommodate their share of migrants, drawing a furious response from central Europe.

A Czech official accused Berlin of making empty threats while Slovakia said such penalties would bring the “end of the EU”.

Under new rules that took effect from midnight, Hungary said anyone seeking asylum at its border with Serbia, the EU’s external frontier, would automatically be turned back. Anyone trying to sneak through would face jail.

In scenes with echoes of the Cold War, families with small children sat in fields beneath the former communist country’s new 3.5-metre (10 foot) high fence, which runs almost the length of the border, topped with razor wire.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, one of the continent’s loudest opponents of mass immigration, says he is acting to save Europe’s “Christian values” by blocking the main overland route used by mainly Muslim refugees, who travel through the Balkans and cross his country mainly to reach Germany or Sweden.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been arriving at the EU’s southern and eastern edges and making their way to the richer countries further north and west in the greatest migration to Western Europe since World War Two.

Germany and other relatively open countries say Europe has a moral obligation to accept refugees, and other EU states must be required to do their part.

Eastern European countries argue that a more welcoming stance encourages more people to make dangerous voyages, and risks attracting an uncontrolled influx that would overwhelm social welfare systems and dilute national cultures.

Under its new rules, Hungary said it will now automatically turn back refugees who arrive by land over the main route from Serbia, a country it has declared “safe”. Asylum claims would be processed within eight days and those at the Serbian border should be rejected within hours.

“If someone is a refugee, we will ask them whether they have submitted an asylum request in Serbia. If they had not done so, given that Serbia is a safe country, they will be rejected,” Orban was quoted as telling private broadcaster TV2 on Monday. — Reuters

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