Refugee crisis: Hundreds break through Hungarian police lines near Serb border
Several hundred Arabs, Asians and Africans tired of waiting for buses broke through Hungarian police lines near the Serbian border Monday and marched north on the main highway to Budapest as authorities once again demonstrated an inability to control the human tide passing through Hungary.
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Police repeatedly tried to form lines blocking roadways around a migrant holding centre near the border village of Roszke, but the asylum seekers vastly outnumbered police and were able to go around authorities, racing through farm fields to reach the M5 motorway linking Hungary to Serbia.
The move mirrored last week's surge of migrants west from the capital, Budapest, toward Austria in a traffic-snarling, train-disrupting tactic that forced Hungarian authorities to relent on security grounds and move thousands in a fleet of buses to the Austrian border. Hungary since has dropped visa checks on foreigners buying train tickets in a further step to make it easier for the newcomers to leave Hungary for the wealthier West, particularly Germany.
Monday's renewed trouble underscored the growing sense across the continent that the 28-nation European Union must reach a continent-wide agreement on sharing responsibility for sheltering more of the estimated 340,000 asylum seekers who have arrived in the 28-nation bloc already this year.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, reflecting on "a moving, in some parts breathtaking weekend behind us," said earlier Monday that all EU countries should help to accommodate the human tide of Arabs, Asians and Africans seeking refuge from war and poverty.
But some of the EU's newest members, including the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary resisted such a move.
French President François Hollande announced his country would welcome 24,000 refugees while he and Merkel had agreed on a formula for spreading the migrant load across Europe.
But Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, said he wasn't prepared to pitch in and questioned how any EU quota system based on current figures could resolve the real issue of unrelenting immigration.
Even as calm returned Monday to the main Austria-Hungary border crossing where more than 15,000 people crossed over the weekend en route to Germany, Hungary's leader hit back at European partners who blamed his country for stoking the chaos.
Merkel told reporters in Berlin that Germany would ensure that those who need protection receive it, but those who stand no chance of getting asylum would be swiftly returned to their homelands. Germany is preparing to receive by far the largest number of immigrants, an estimated 800,000 by the end of the year, and Merkel said other EU nations should take some of those poeple.
Outside the EU, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the U.K. will resettle up to 20,000 Syrians from camps in Turkey, Jordan and Syria over the next five years. Announcing the vast expansion of Britain's refugee program, he told Parliament that Britain has a moral responsibility to act. Cameron said vulnerable children and orphans would be given priority.
Orban mocked the European Union's efforts to distribute migrants through a quota system and compared Hungary to a "black sheep" representing a voice of reason in the EU flock.
He said Europe first must focus on security measures designed to force travelers from troubled lands to seek asylum in neighbouring countries, not travel thousands of kilometres into the heart of Europe. He said the current discussions on a new quota to handle 120,000 migrants soon would lead to discussions on hosting millions more.
"We represent the position of what the Americans call 'first things first,"' Orban told Hungarian ambassadors meeting in Budapest. "As long as we are unable to defend Europe's external borders, it makes no sense to talk about the fate of the immigrants."
Defence minister quits
In a related development, Hungarian Defence Minister Csaba Hende resigned Monday. The statement from Orban's government didn't explicitly blame him for Hungary's failure to complete the building of a fence along Hungary's 175-kilometre border with Serbia, but it was supposed to be completed last month and remains unfinished.
Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann and other EU leaders have blamed Orban for bungling Hungary's intake of migrants so badly that it left Austria and Germany no choice but to open their borders to thousands who had complained of neglect and human rights violations in Hungary and refused to stay in refugee camps there.
Hans Peter Doskozil, police chief of Burgenland in eastern Austria, said more than 15,000 people crossed from Hungary by foot, bus, train and car over the weekend. Austria ordinarily would require all asylum seekers to register there, but in an exceptional gesture permitted all to travel onward chiefly by train to Germany, their overwhelming destination of choice.
Austria said Monday it intended to stop providing special trains for more migrant loads because of dissipating demand.
"The situation is under control," Austrian Railways spokesman Michael Braun said after three special trains for migrants left Vienna's Westbahnhof for the southern German city of Munich earlier Monday.