At least twenty two refugees have drowned trying to reach Kalymnos and Rhodes from Turkey, in the second major boat tragedy off Greek islands this week.
Greek officials said 19 people died and 138 were rescued near Kalymnos.
Three others died off Rhodes and three were missing. Six were rescued there.
Greece’s PM Alexis Tsipras said he felt “shame” over “the inability of Europe to deal effectively with this human drama”.
Speaking in parliament, the left-wing Syriza leader condemned the “level of debate at a senior level, where one is passing the buck to the other” in the EU.
“Crocodile tears are being shed for the dead children on the shores of the Aegean, because dead children always arouse sorrow, but what about the children that are alive who come in thousands and are packed on the refugee trail? Nobody cares for them,” Alexis Tsipras added.
Meanwhile, rescuers in southern Spain are searching for 35 refugees missing after their boat broke up on its way from Morocco. Four bodies have been found.
The unseaworthy, overcrowded boat set off from Alhucemas. Fifteen refugees were rescued.
In recent months the main migrant influx has been to the Greek holiday islands lying off Turkey’s Aegean coast.
In this week’s previous sinking in the Aegean, Greek authorities confirmed the deaths of 16 refugees off Lesbos after their boat broke up in rough seas late on October 28. Rescuers managed to save 274 people.
Thousands have been arriving on Lesbos every day after making the dangerous journey from Turkey. People traffickers usually pack them onto unseaworthy boats, often inflatable dinghies.
The UN estimates that more than 700,000 refugees have crossed to Europe by boat so far this year – many of them refugees from war-torn Syria. The approach of winter has so far done little to slow the flow.
The EU is deploying its Frontex border force to new “hotspots” – refugee reception centers in Greece and Italy where local officials are overwhelmed by the numbers. Frontex aims to help speed up the registration of refugees.
The Czech Republic is accused of “systematic” rights violations in their treatment of refugees and migrants.
According to the UN’s human rights chief, Czech authorities were holding refugees in “degrading” conditions for up to 90 days.
Zeid Raad Al Hussein said refugees had been strip-searched to find money to pay for their detention, and protested about “Islamophobic” statements by Czech President Milos Zeman.
Milos Zeman’s spokesman said the president “stood by his opinions”.
While other European countries had implemented policies to restrict the movement of refugees, the Czech Republic was “unique” in its routine detention of migrants for long periods, Zeid Raad Al Hussein said in a statement.
He said the measures taken appeared to be “designed to deter migrants and refugees from entering the country or staying there”.
Zeid Raad Al Hussein said one detention facility in Beza-Jezova has been described as “worse than a prison” by the Czech justice minister.
The UN rights chief added that he was alarmed by the “xenophobic public discourse” accompanying Czech government policy.
Milos Zeman frequently courts controversy with Islamophobic remarks.
While visiting a butcher shop on a recent visit to southeast Moravia, Milos Zeman told reporters that Muslim refugees would not respect Czech laws and customs.
Milos Zeman said that on the contrary, they would stone women to death for adultery and cut thieves’ hands off.
The president’s spokesman said the UN’s criticism of Milos Zeman was part of an intensifying campaign against the Czech Republic over its stand on the refugee crisis.
Slovenia has opened its borders for most of the 5,000 refugees who were stranded in wet and muddy conditions on its border with Croatia on October 19.
The country had previously vowed to take in only 2,500 refugees per day.
Croatia has also opened its border with Serbia, where thousands more migrants are trying to reach northern Europe.
Aid agencies have been warning of dire conditions as bottlenecks develop at border crossings in the Balkans.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees, many from Syria, Africa and Afghanistan, have been making their way from Turkey to the Balkans in recent months, in a bid to reach Germany, Sweden and other EU states.
On Monday evening, Germany saw large rival rallies in Dresden to mark the first anniversary of the anti-immigrant group Pegida.
The protests come amid fears the group is becoming more radical in response to Germany’s decision to take in hundreds of thousands of refugees this year.
Croatia and Slovenia appeared to ease restrictions on the flow of migrants late on October 19, after thousands of people were stranded for hours in wet, cold and windy conditions.
Both countries imposed stricter controls at the weekend after Hungary, citing security concerns, closed its southern border and forced migrants to switch to a slower route via Slovenia.
Slovenia’s interior ministry said on October 19 that some 5,000 refugees were allowed to enter from Croatia, and 900 of them had already travelled onwards to Austria by the evening.
Slovenia earlier criticized Croatia for allowing large groups of refugees over the border, and breaking an agreement to limit such transfers to 2,500 people a day.
Meanwhile, Croatia decided to open its border late on Monday, after aid workers warned of “dire” conditions for another 3,000 refugees stuck in cold and wet weather without shelter on the Serbia-Croatia frontier.
Croatian buses transported the thousands of refugees to a nearby reception centre.
Croatia’s PM Zoran MIlanovic said his government had hoped to stem the flow of people but poor conditions on the Serbian side of the border had forced them to let the migrants through.
“It’s apparent that this is no solution, so we will let them through. We will send them toward Slovenia,” he said.
Before Monday’s mass crossing, the UNHCR said 10,000 refugees were stranded in Serbia – with more than 6,000 entering from Macedonia on Monday alone.
Some Serbian officials have also indicated they may in turn hold back arrivals from the south.
More than 600,000 refugees, most of them Syrians, have reached Europe so far this year compared with just over 200,000 for the whole of 2014
Germany has said it expects 800,000 asylum seekers this year, but it is believed the number could be as high as 1.5 million.
Scuffles broke out during protests in Dresden on October 19, as 20,000 Pegida supporters confronted a similar number of counter demonstrators amid an angry backlash over Germany’s open-door policy towards refugees.
Thousands of refugees have been stranded at borders in the Balkans, in cold and wet conditions, after Hungary closed its borders with Croatia.
Several hundred, including young children and babies, spent the night in the open at Croatia’s border with Slovenia.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) also complained of a lack of basic supplies at the Serbia-Croatia border.
The western Balkan route has been disrupted by government restrictions.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees, many from Syria, Africa and Afghanistan, have been making their way from Turkey to the Balkans in recent months, in a bid to reach Germany, Sweden and other EU states.
Slovenia decided at the weekend to restrict the numbers crossing its territory in response to what it said was Austria’s new policy of cutting the numbers entering – something Austria denies.
More than 10,000 refugees are now stranded in Serbia, barred from entering Croatia, according the UNHCR.
“There is a lack of food, lack of blankets – we are missing everything,” spokeswoman Melita Sunjic told Reuters.
On the Croatia-Slovenia border, 500 people spent the night in the open at Trnovec. Police have now allowed them to shelter under canopies attached to immigration huts.
A further 1,800-2,000 slept on a train held on the Croatian side of the border.
Officials told them they could stay temporarily in Croatia or try to make their own way into Slovenia.
Croatia had asked its northern neighbor Slovenia to accept 5,000 refugees daily, but Slovenia said it would only take half that number.
Explaining Slovenia’s new restrictions on October 18, Interior Ministry State Secretary Bostjan Sefic said its northern neighbor Austria was only accepting a maximum of 1,500 people a day.
He said that Slovenia “cannot accept unlimited numbers of migrants if we know that they cannot continue their journey”.
Hungary, citing security concerns, has closed its borders with Serbia and Croatia, forcing refugees to switch to a slower route via Slovenia.
There are reports in Slovenian media that restrictions on its borders with Austria and Croatia are being eased.
Germany’s welcome for Syrian refugees continues to create internal political tensions.
The Pegida organization, which campaigns against immigration, says it expects tens of thousands to demonstrate in the eastern city of Dresden on October 19.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has described Pegida as “hard-right extremists”.
More than 600,000 people, most of them Syrians, have reached Europe so far this year compared with just over 200,000 for the whole of 2014.
Germany has said it expects 800,000 asylum seekers in 2015, but it is believed the number could be as high as 1.5 million.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that all EU countries must be prepared to send security staff to the bloc’s external borders.
Speaking as she arrived at an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels, Angela Merkel said it would be unfair to ask EU countries seeing the majority of initial refugee entries to secure borders as well.
The meeting aims to secure Turkey’s agreement to a plan to halt the flow of refugees trying to reach Europe.
Nearly 600,000 refugees have reached the EU by sea so far this year.
Describing the current situation as “very disorderly”, Angela Merkel said: “It’s quite obvious that only a few countries today take the majority of refugees and if these countries now are asked to secure the external borders on top of that, I don’t think it would be what we could call a fair distribution of effort.”
The summit aims to tackle the migration crisis by working with non-EU countries, protecting the EU’s external borders and ensuring some migrants are sent back.
Estonian PM Taavi Roivas said immediate action was needed to preserve the EU’s borderless Schengen area, which has come under increasing pressure, with some states reintroducing controls to prevent migrants from crossing borders.
Meanwhile Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban said his country would decide whether to close its border with Croatia by October 16.
Hungarian state TV reported Viktor Orban as saying he would prefer the EU to defend its external border in Greece but could seal its Croatian border “within an hour if necessary”.
There were also calls for member states to address the causes of migration by providing more money for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and for development in Africa.
“Member states need to put their money where their mouth is,” said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
Meanwhile, EU negotiators in Ankara are making “good progress” in talks with Turkish officials, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.
Turkey is hosting some two million refugees, most of them fleeing the war in neighboring Syria.
It has also called for the establishment of an international “safe zone” for refugees inside northern Syria.
The 28 EU leaders meeting in Brussels are hoping the Turkish government will sign up to a joint action plan that includes: greater financial and procedural support for Turkey to deal with refugees; gaining permission from Turkey to help patrol its coastline; combating people smuggling; strengthening return operations.
Turkey is expected to press for progress towards visa-free travel for its citizens to European countries within the so-called Schengen area.
About two million people have fled to Turkey in more than four years of conflict in Syria. Every week thousands seek to enter the EU – typically via Greece – with many heading towards northern Europe.
Germany accepted the largest number of asylum claims in 2014 and expects to see as many as 800,000 in 2015. Sweden had the second-highest number of asylum seekers.
According to German media, the number of refugees seeking asylum in Germany this year will be as high as 1.5 million – almost double the previous estimate.
The German government has not confirmed the new estimate, which comes from an internal official report cited by popular daily Bild.
The report warns that services helping refugees will not be able to cope.
Separately, a centre-right regional minister put the expected total at 1.2-1.5 million for 2015.
The German government previously estimated the number of asylum claims this year to reach 800,000 to one million in total.
Many are refugees fleeing the wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, but there are also many economic migrants from the Balkans, Asia and Africa.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres has warned that Europe, in dealing with the migration crisis, is engaged in a “battle of compassion versus fear, and of tolerance versus xenophobia”.
Speaking in Geneva, Antonio Guterres said the world was facing the highest levels of forced displacement in recorded history and the principle of asylum must remain sacrosanct.
He urged Europe to defend “its founding values of tolerance and openness by welcoming refugees of all religions”.
The leaders of Hungary and Slovakia have said the influx of Muslims is a challenge to Europe’s “Christian” identity.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to meet EU leaders in Brussels shortly to discuss the Syria crisis, which has fuelled an exodus of Syrians to the EU via Turkey.
Greek islands near the Turkish coast are overburdened with migrants, many of them Syrians determined to reach Germany. The crisis has strained EU relations with Turkey, a mainly Muslim country.
On October 4, several thousand Germans opposed to mass immigration demonstrated in two eastern towns – Plauen and Sebnitz – after a call to action by the anti-Islamic PEGIDA movement.
PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against Islamisation of the West) has staged regular anti-immigration marches across Germany.
The migrant influx is stretching resources in many German cities, including Hamburg, where empty commercial properties can now be seized in order to house migrants.
There is growing political pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who continues to defend her open-door refugee policy. Germany can manage, the chancellor insisted at the weekend.
Many German politicians – including her conservative Bavarian CSU allies and various EU partners – have criticized the policy.
The Interior Minister of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania region, Lorenz Caffier, gave an estimate of 1.2-1.5 million asylum claims for this year.
However, federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said it was very hard to give accurate figures. Some refugees either avoided registration or moved elsewhere after being registered in one place, he said.
In 2014, the national total for asylum claims was 202,000.
The United Nations warns that a daily flow of about 8,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees to Europe is likely to continue.
The figure came from UN regional coordinator for refugees Amin Awad, who spoke to Reuters news agency.
More than 5,000 refugees are arriving daily in Greece.
That flow could continue during the winter if the weather remains good and the borders open, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.
About half a million migrants – mostly from Syria and other conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa – have arrived in Europe this year.
The refugee influx has caused tensions between EU neighbors in Central Europe, which continued on September 25 despite a visit to Austria by Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban.
Viktor Orban and Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann did not appear together in public after their talks.
Werner Faymann had earlier likened Hungary’s tough handling of migrants to the policies of Nazi Germany – a comparison angrily dismissed by Hungary.
Speaking in Vienna, Viktor Orban said Hungary had to build a fence on its border with Croatia like the razor-wire fence completed on its border with Serbia.
What happens on the Croatia-Hungary border will be “decisive in the next few days” for the refugee crisis, he said. Hungary has nearly completed the fence on that border.
Hungary’s traditionally good relations with Austria must be maintained, Viktor Orban said, urging Vienna to show “clear support” for protection of the EU’s external borders.
Croatia – the EU’s newest member state – has struggled with an influx of migrants from Serbia, since they were blocked at the Hungarian border. Croatia-Serbia tensions escalated into a war of words.
On September 25, Croatia’s PM Zoran Milanovic said he was working to lift the country’s border restrictions “today or tomorrow”.
Vehicles have been blocked and Serbia – a candidate to join the EU – angrily compared the restrictions with “those of the World War Two fascist regime”.
Scars remain from the Serb-Croat fighting of the 1990s, when Yugoslavia disintegrated in inter-ethnic conflict.
The EU’s Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy, Johannes Hahn, visited a refugee camp in the border zone on September 25 with Serbia’s PM Aleksandar Vucic.
Deep divisions surfaced in the EU this week when ministers agreed to relocate about 120,000 refugees across Europe.
The refugees – from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea – will be transferred from Greece and Italy, to ease the pressure on overcrowded reception centers there.
However, there is still a dispute about the distribution plan. Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia voted against it. They resent the imposition of quotas, arguing that they are ill-equipped to integrate non-EU rrefugees.
Many of the refugees are determined to reach Germany, whose Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged EU partners to take in more refugees. Germany expects to have at least 800,000 asylum seekers in 2015.
Germany’s federal government has pledged €4 billion ($4.5 billion) to its regional states, double the current levels of funding, to help them cope with a record refugee influx.
North Korea has blamed the “evil” United States for triggering Europe’s worst refugee crisis since WW II.
In a lengthy screed denouncing “intolerable” criticism of Pyongyang’s human rights record, a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman argued that the US should be the real focus of censure.
“The US is an evil empire… committing all sorts of human rights abuses,” the spokesman said in a statement carried by North Korea’s official KCNA news agency on September 24.
As an example, the spokesman cited the plight of the hundreds of thousands of refugees from war zones like Syria and Afghanistan who are seeking shelter in European countries.
“It is the US which caused the serious refugee issue sweeping the whole of Europe,” he said.
“As the US started wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and other parts of the world, and fostered civil wars under the pretexts of ‘war on terrorism’ and establishment of ‘democracy,’ refugees have been on a sharp increase,” he added.
North Korea, by contrast was a “cradle of happy life”, the spokesman said.
The statement was a response to a recent discussion of North Korean rights violations at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
A report published in 2014 by a special UN commission accused North Korea of committing human rights violations “without parallel in the contemporary world”.
At least 10,000 refugees have arrived in Austria on September 19, amid bitter rows among EU nations on how to handle the growing crisis.
The refugees had been sent from Croatia into Hungary, which in turn shipped them on to Austria.
Hungary accused Croatia of breaking the rules by failing to register the refugees.
Meanwhile, 26 refugees are missing after their boat sank off Greece.
Coastguards managed to rescue 20 people but were told the boat had been carrying 46 people when it sank off the Greek island of Lesbos.
Separately, a search is continuing for 13 people still missing after their boat sank in the same waters on September 19, killing a five-year-old girl.
On the same day, Austrian police said they were expecting at least 10,000 arrivals, while the head of the Austrian Red Cross, Gerry Foitik, later told Austria Presse Agentur (APA) that between 12,000 to 13,000 people had entered the country over the course of the day.
The deputy police chief of Austria’s Burgenland state, Christian Stella, told APA that Hungary had not given enough warning.
Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner accused neighboring countries of failing to follow EU rules, expressing concern that migrants were also arriving from Croatia via Slovenia.
One refugee, who crossed into the Austrian town of Heiligenkreuz from Hungary, told the Associated Press: “I feel like I’ve been born anew. It makes no difference whether I am delayed, whether I stay here two days. The important thing is that I’ve finally arrived and that I am now finally safe.”
Croatia has seen 20,000 refugees entering from Serbia since September 16 and, after initially welcoming them, said it was unable to cope and moved them on.
PM Zoran Milanovic admitted there was no agreement with Hungary.
“We forced them, by sending people up there. And we’ll keep doing it,” he said.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto branded Zoran Milanovic “pathetic”, adding: “Instead of honestly making provision for the immigrants, it sent them straight to Hungary. What kind of European solidarity is this?”
The Hungarian government accused Croatia of breaching international law by failing to register refugees and said all asylum seekers would be registered in Hungary before they could leave for northern Europe.
However, a number of refugees who reached Austria via Hungary ssaid they had not been registered in Hungary either, simply driven in buses across the country and told to walk over a railway line into Austria.
While Hungary continues to transport refugees arriving from Croatia, it is building a razor-wire fence on the border that will be completed soon.
Hungary says it will then enforce the same tough laws it introduced earlier this week on its Serbian border – where there is a similar fence – making crossing it a criminal offence.
However, government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said that “at the moment” stopping the flow “seems to be impractical”.
Croatia has decided to close seven of its eight road border crossings with Serbia following a huge influx of refugees.
Croatian officials said they had no choice after more than 13,000 people entered the country since Hungary fenced off its border with Serbia earlier this week.
Many refugees have been taken by bus to reception centers but some say they plan to walk to neighboring Slovenia.
Huge numbers of people heading north from the Mediterranean have created a political crisis in the EU.
Croatian officials said roads leading to the border crossings had also been shut.
Photo AFP/Getty Images
The crossing on the main road linking Belgrade and Zagreb – at Bajakovo – appeared to be the only one left open.
On September 17, Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said his country was “absolutely full”.
Ranko Ostojic said his message to the refugees was: “Don’t come here anymore. Stay in refugee centers in Serbia and Macedonia and Greece. This is not the road to Europe. Buses can’t take you there. It’s a lie.”
However, a Reuters journalist at the scene reported that refugees were walking through fields to bypass one of the border crossings.
Scuffles broke out in two locations on the border with Serbia on September 17 after people were left waiting for hours for transport further north.
Crowds briefly broke through police lines at Tovarnik and Batina – two of the crossings now closed.
Buses arrived just before midnight but not enough to transport everyone. Drivers said people were being taken to a reception centre.
Many refugees appear to have slipped away to continue their journey north on foot.
Thousands of refugees pushed through the Croatian riot police lines in the town of Tovarnik at the Serbian border.
Refugees waiting for hours in blazing heat grew frustrated, though the situation is quieter now.
Croatia is struggling to deal with at least 7,300 arrivals since September 16 after Hungary closed its border with Serbia, blocking the previous route into the EU.
European Union leaders will hold an emergency summit next week to discuss the crisis.
Croatian officials say refugees must apply for asylum there or be treated as illegal immigrants.
Authorities seem to be overwhelmed and surprised by the number of refugees – most of whom wish to travel on to other EU countries – and the Croatian interior minister has said the country is “absolutely full”.
Correspondents described the scenes in Tovarnik as mayhem, after several thousand refugees who had crossed from Serbia were held back by riot police, trying to get them to wait for transport on from the border.
Croatian police eventually gave way under pressure. Some of the refugees said they intended to walk to Slovenia.
Many are exhausted with supplies of food and water running low.
Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic has asked the army to be ready to protect the country’s borders from “the illegal migration”, state news agency Hina reported.
Hungarian media reported that dozens of refugees were crossing from Croatia into Hungary at Illocska – thus avoiding the fence on Hungary’s border with Serbia.
Croatia said it would allow migrants to travel into northern Europe, but officials in Slovenia – which borders Croatia to the north – have said they would tighten their border security and would stick to rules which require asylum-seekers to register on arrival.
Slovenia, like Hungary, is an entry point to the Schengen zone, which normally allows people to travel between member countries without restrictions.
On September 16, hundreds of refugees were involved in clashes at the Hungary-Serbia border after Hungarian authorities used water cannon and tear gas to stop migrants forcing their way through.
Zeid Raad al-Hussein, a UN top human rights official, said the images from the Hungarian border were “truly shocking”.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he is “shocked” after Hungarian riot police used tear gas and water cannon against refugees at Serbian border.
According to Ban Ki-moon, such treatment of asylum seekers was “unacceptable”.
Hundreds of refugees were involved in clashes at the Hungary-Serbia border on September 16, trying to breach a razor-wire fence.
More than 5,000 refugees have entered Croatia so far – avoiding Hungary – police say, and another 7,266 entered Germany on September 16.
German police said this was more than double the number that crossed the previous day, adding that most were picked up on the border with Austria.
Germany is the final goal of many refugees, as the EU remains divided over how to deal with the crisis.
Hungary defended its action, saying that 20 police officers were injured as refugees tried to break through a gate, and a spokesman accused migrants of using children as “human shields”.
At least two refugees were also injured, Hungarian and Serbian officials said.
Hungary closed its entire border with Serbia on September 15 after making it illegal to enter the country or damage the border fence. The Hungarian courts have started fast-track trials of arrested refugees.
More than 200,000 people have already crossed into Hungary this year to enter the EU’s Schengen zone, which normally allows people to travel between member countries without restrictions.
Many are now heading for the Croatian border. Croatian police said 5,650 had crossed into the country.
Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic told national TV that the police were currently in control of the situation but if refugees continued to arrive in large numbers the authorities would have to think about taking a different approach.
On September 16, the Croatian officials said the country would allow migrants to travel to northern Europe.
Several hundred left the border by train, but thousands more have gathered to wait for further trains.
On September 16, there were chaotic scenes near the town of Horgos, with fires burning and police vehicles and ambulances arriving on the Serbian side of the border, across from massed ranks of riot police on the other side.
Some refugees threw missiles, including stones and water bottles.
The firing of tear gas and water cannon created a stampede of refugees away from the border.
Several people received treatment from the Serbian ambulance service, some suffering the effects of tear gas.
Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic accused Hungary of being “brutal and “non-European”.
Serbia has said it will send additional police to its border with Hungary.
Dozens of refugees have reached Croatia – opening up a new route to northern EU countries, a day after Hungary sealed its border with Serbia.
The refugees crossed into Croatia, an EU member, from Serbia.
Croatia says it is ready to receive them or “direct” them to where they want to go. Many migrants – mainly Syrian – are hoping to reach Germany.
New border restrictions and a row over allocating migrants have shown bitter divisions in Europe over the crisis.
Hundreds of refugees remain stranded outside or in makeshift tents near the Serbian border with Hungary.
On September 15, Hungary declared a state of emergency in the border area, with hundreds of army and police deployed to enforce new laws making it an offence to breach a razor-wire border fence.
Police sealed a railway crossing point near Roszke which had been used by tens of thousands of migrants to enter the European border-free Schengen zone.
The move has all but stopped the inflow.
On September 16, Hungarian police said they had detained 367 refugees entering illegally – and the first criminal proceedings have been launched.
The EU’s border agency says more than 500,000 refugees have arrived at the EU’s borders so far this year, compared with 280,000 in 2014.
Many are fleeing conflict and poverty in countries including Syria, where a civil war has been raging since 2011.
The refugees have been crossing from Turkey, with about 1,000 in the city of Edirne on September 16, waiting to organize a crossing into Greece. Their journey would then take them to Macedonia and Serbia.
Until September 15, most poured into Schengen member Hungary and crossed into Austria to reach Germany. Both Germany and Austria have introduced tighter border controls to control the flow.
A group of about 40 refugees arrived in the border town of Sid in Serbia on September 16. They had travelled by bus from the Serbian town of Presevo near the Macedonian border in the south.
They crossed into Croatia where police began registering them.
Croatia’s PM Zoran Milanovic told parliament that authorities were “entirely ready to receive or direct those people where they want to go, which is obviously Germany or Scandinavian countries”.
“They will be able to pass through Croatia and we will help, we’re getting ready for that possibility,” he said.
A meeting of the Croatian National Security Council has been called to co-ordinate the response.
Croatian media have warned of the dangers posed by landmines dating back to Croatia’s war of independence in the early 1990s, even though experts say the areas are clearly marked.
The Serbian minister in charge of the government’s working committee on migrants, Aleksandar Vulin, argued that the closure of the border by Hungary was unsustainable for Serbia.
Hungary has said it could extend its fence to the border with Romania – a possible new route.
Romania said this would violate the “European spirit” of co-operation.
Hungary’s government has declared a state of emergency at the Serbian border as tough new laws to stop refugees entering illegally took effect at midnight.
Hungarian police said they had arrested 60 people accused of trying to breach a razor-wire fence on the border with Serbia.
The state of emergency gives police extra powers and would allow troop deployments if parliament approves.
The EU states are facing a huge influx of refugees, many fleeing conflict and poverty in countries including Syria.
Meanwhile, Germany and Austria are calling for a special meeting of EU leaders next week to discuss the crisis.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a news conference that “this problem can only be solved together. It is a responsibility for the entire European Union”.
The EU’s border agency said more than 500,000 refugees had arrived at the EU’s borders in 2015, compared with 280,000 in 2014. The vast majority have come by boat across the Mediterranean.
A boat following the most popular recent route, between Turkey and Greece, sank on September 15 leaving 22 people dead, Turkish media reported.
Starting on September 15, the European Union has agreed to relocate 40,000 migrants from Greece and Italy to other EU states. However, it has yet to agree on mandatory quotas for a further 120,000 asylum seekers.
After the new Hungarian laws came into effect at midnight, police sealed a railway crossing point that had been used by tens of thousands of migrants.
Around midday there were tense scenes as hundreds streamed towards the fence, some searching for a way through and others starting a sit-down strike, throwing down food and water in protest at not being granted passage.
Hungarian authorities said more than 9,000 – a new record – crossed into the country before the border was closed on September 14. Some 20,000 crossed into Austria.
From September 15, anyone who crosses the border illegally will face criminal charges, and 30 judges have been put on standby to try offenders.
The laws also make it a criminal offence – punishable by prison or deportation – to damage the newly-built 13ft fence along Hungary’s 110 mile border with Serbia.
Hungary is bringing in tough new laws to stop the entry of illegal refugees.
Hungarian police can now detain anyone who tries to breach a razor-wire fence built on the border with Serbia.
The country has become a key point on the journey north for thousands of refugees from the Middle East and Africa.
The EU has agreed to relocate 40,000 refugees from Greece and Italy to other EU states, starting on September 15.
However, it failed to agree on mandatory quotas for a further 120,000 asylum seekers.
Instead, at the meeting in Brussels, a majority of ministers agreed “in principle” and negotiations will now take place ahead of another meeting in October.
The new Hungarian laws came into effect at on September 14 at midnight.
Police sealed a railway crossing point that had been used by tens of thousands of refugees, and many slept out in the open on the Serbian side of the border.
Police buses will now take asylum applicants to registration centers, but if their applications are refused they will now be returned to Serbia rather than being given passage through Hungary.
Hungarian authorities said more than 9,000 – a new record – crossed into the country before the border was closed on September 14.
From now on anyone who crosses the border illegally will face criminal charges, and 30 judges have been put on standby to try potential offenders.
The laws also make it a criminal offence – punishable by prison or deportation – to damage the newly-built 13ft-fence along Hungary’s 110 mile border with Serbia.
Mounted police have been deployed along the border.
“We will start a new era,” government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said shortly after midnight.
“We will stop the inflow of illegal migrants over our green borders.”
Zoltan Kovacs added: “That also means that the official and legal ways to come to Hungary and therefore to the European Union remain open. That’s all we ask from all migrants – that they should comply with international and European law.”
At the Brussels talks, Luxembourg, which holds the EU presidency, said it was hoped that the relocation proposal could be made law at a meeting on October 8.
Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia were reportedly among the nations opposed to mandatory quotas.
“There was no consensus, several countries disagreed,” Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak said after the talks.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said “not everyone is on board at the moment”.
He warned the situation in Europe was “urgent and dramatic and time is of the essence”.
Under complex EU rules, a unanimous vote is not required and decisions can be made with a qualified majority.
However, correspondents say that would be a show of disunity that the EU is trying to avoid.
Jean Asselborn said a list of safe countries, to which failed asylum seekers can be returned, had been agreed on principle.
European states have been struggling to cope with a record influx of refugees, who are mainly trying to reach Germany and Sweden.
On September 14, a number of EU countries followed Germany’s suit in introducing temporary border checks.
The moves are a challenge to the EU’s Schengen agreement on free movement, although the rules do allow for temporary controls in emergencies.
Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said troops were also being deployed, mainly to provide humanitarian help within Austria, but would be sent to the border if necessary.
In order to deal with an influx of refugees, more EU states have said they are imposing border checks.
Slovakia, Austria and the Netherlands said they would tighten controls, hours after Germany imposed checks on its border with Austria.
Hungary also completed a fence along its border with Serbia, and blocked a railway line used as a crossing point.
Meanwhile in Brussels, EU interior ministers agreed in principle to relocate 120,000 asylum seekers.
Luxembourg, which holds the EU presidency, said the decision was expected to be made law when ministers meet on October 8.
There were no details on how the asylum seekers would be shared out among EU states. Some countries have opposed plans for mandatory quotas.
European countries have been struggling to cope with a record influx of refugees, many aiming for Germany.
In Hungary, a container wagon, with one end covered in razor wire, was rolled along the track to plug the gap in the fence near the town of Roszke. Refugees were directed to an official registration point.
Hungary is due to enforce tougher measures from midnight, including arresting illegal immigrants.PM Viktor Orban told Hungary’s TV2 a state of emergency was “likely” to be introduced in the border area.
The new border checks further north are a challenge to the EU’s Schengen agreement on free movement, although the rules do allow for temporary controls in emergencies.
Austrian police said up to 7,000 people had arrived from Hungary on September 14, and 14,000 on September 13.
Chancellor Werner Faymann said troops were also being deployed, primarily to provide humanitarian help within Austria, but would be sent to the border if necessary.
“If Germany carries out border controls, Austria must put strengthened border controls in place,” Vice-Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner said.
Meanwhile the EU approved a plan for operation in the Mediterranean to conduct “search, seizure and diversion… of vessels suspected of being used for human smuggling”.
Most of the refugees who surged into Hungary in recent weeks fled conflict, oppression and poverty in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea.
Many have been refusing to register in Greece or Hungary, fearing it will stop them being granted asylum in Germany or other EU countries.
On September 14, Germany’s new border controls were said to be causing traffic jams as long as 12 miles on highways in Austria.
Germany will introduce temporary controls on its border with Austria to cope with the influx of refugees, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has announced.
Thomas de Maiziere said refugees could “not choose” their host countries and called on other EU states to do more.
Trains between Germany and Austria have been suspended for 12 hours.
Germany’s vice-chancellor has said his country is “at the limit of its capabilities” as more than 13,000 migrants arrived in Munich on September 12.
Germany expects 800,000 migrants to arrive this year.
“The aim of these measures is to limit the current inflows to Germany and to return to orderly procedures when people enter the country,” Thomas de Maiziere told a news conference.
He gave no details. The move goes against the principle of the Schengen zone, which allows free movement between many European countries. However, the agreement does allow for temporary suspensions.
Germany’s rail service Deutsche Bahn said train services with Austria would be stopped until 03:00GMT on September 14.
Many refugees have been refusing to register in countries such as Greece or Hungary, fearing it will stop them being granted asylum in Germany or other EU states.
The city of Munich, in the German state of Bavaria, has taken the brunt of arrivals over the weekend.
Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer said the controls sent an “important signal”.
Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban, who has taken a tough line on the migrant crisis, told Germany’s Bild newspaper he welcomed the new controls, saying they were “necessary to protect German and European values”.
On September 13, the Czech Republic also said it would boost border controls with Austria.
Europe as a whole is struggling to deal with an enormous influx of people, mostly from Syria but also Afghanistan, Eritrea and other countries, fleeing violence and poverty.
On the same day, Greek coastguards said at least 34 people, including 11 children, drowned when a boat carrying about 100 migrants capsized off the island of Farmakonisi in the southern Aegean Sea.
Earlier on Sunday, Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, who is also economy minister, warned his country was being stretched to its limits by the new arrivals.
“It is not just a question of the number of migrants, but also the speed at which they are arriving that makes the situation so difficult to handle,” he told the Tagesspiegel newspaper.
Sigmar Gabriel also called on European countries, Gulf states and the US to give billions of euros towards schools, accommodation and food in refugee camps in the Middle East.
A steady stream of refugees is travelling from Greece, through Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary, to Austria and Germany.
Hungary is aiming to complete a 13ft-high fence along the border with Serbia by September 15, when tougher measures, including arresting illegal immigrants, come into force.
The European Commission announced plans last week for mandatory quotas to share out 120,000 additional asylum seekers among 25 member countries.
The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania are opposed to this.
The foreign ministers of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are to meet their counterpart from Germany and current EU presidency holder Luxembourg, amid a growing row over refugee quotas.
The Central European countries – the so-called Visegrad-four – reject quotas proposed by the EU Commission and backed by Germany.
The talks in Prague are expected to focus on this issue.
The European Commission wants 120,000 additional asylum seekers per year to be shared out between 28 EU members.
This would be a sharp increase from the current 40,000.
Photo Getty Images
In recent weeks, tens of thousands of migrants have been desperately trying to flee conflicts in countries like Syria and Libya. Many of them travel through Hungary to Germany, Austria and Sweden – wealthier EU nations with more liberal asylum laws.
The Central European nations have all rejected the proposed compulsory quotas.
This is despite the fact that each of them would take in far fewer refugees than Germany if the EU backs the proposals.
Ahead of the Prague meeting, the Czech Foreign Ministry said it was aimed at improving “better mutual understanding among EU member states… [in light of] some differing views”.
Hungary in particular has become a key point on the journey north for the migrants, with more than 150,000 people arriving this year.
On September 9, the Hungarian army started military exercises to prepare for a possible future role in guarding the border and stemming the flow of people – a move criticized by human rights groups.
A new razor-wire barrier is also being built along Hungary’s border with Serbia.
The authorities in Hungary have been told to expect 40,000 more migrants by next week.
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