German Chancellor Angela Merkel, reflecting on “a moving, in some parts breathtaking, weekend behind us,” said on Monday that all EU countries should help to accommodate the human tide of Arabs, Asians, and Africans seeking refuge from war and poverty.
French President Francois 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 on 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.
“Germany is a country willing to take people in, but refugees can be received in all countries of the European Union in such a way that they can find refuge from civil war and from persecution,” she said.
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 Monday that Britain has a moral responsibility to act, citing shocking images in recent days. Cameron said vulnerable children and orphans will be given priority.
Hungary’s Orban mocked the European Union’s efforts to distribute migrants through a quota system and compared his country to a “black sheep” representing a voice of reason in the EU flock of 28 countries.
He said Europe first must focus on security measures designed to force travelers from troubled lands to seek asylum in neighboring countries, not travel thousands of miles 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.”
Orban also displayed his brash approach to foreigners, praising the resident Muslims of Hungary — well under 1 percent of the population — because of their food.
“We are truly glad that there are kebab shops on our avenues. We like buying lamb from Syrian butchers at Easter,” Orban said.
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 on Monday that 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 on Monday.
But further south on the migrants’ epic, meandering path to Germany, the situation remained fraught with fear and anger.
Police near Hungary’s southern border with non-EU member Serbia blocked more than 100 new arrivals from walking out of a field that serves as the first holding center.
Tempers flared as the people, chiefly identifying themselves as Syrian, demanded to be allowed to walk away rather than wait hours for infrequent bus service that would take them to a nearby Hungarian registration camp. Police, some donning surgical masks and gloves in fear that the foreigners might have infectious diseases, pushed them back to the side of the road and insisted they must wait for buses.
Near the village of Idomeni on Greece’s northern border with Macedonia, scuffles broke out early Monday between police and people waiting to cross, as the crowd grew to nearly 2,000. Tensions eased after authorities, who had been allowing only small groups to cross every half hour, began moving people more quickly. Eventually the crowd thinned, with an estimated 1,000 crossing by midday.
Greek police earlier said that about 5,000 had crossed into Macedonia during the previous 24 hours.
Greece’s migration minister, Yiannis Mouzalas, estimated that at least two thirds of the more than 15,000 travelers stranded on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos would be ferried to mainland Greece in the next five days. Lesbos bears the brunt of the refugee influx from nearby Turkey, with more than 1,000 arriving daily on small boats in often dangerous conditions.
In a late-night meeting that lasted until early Monday in Berlin, the German government agreed to spend 6 billion euros ($6.6 billion) next year to support asylum seekers. It also decided to make it easier to deport those from countries considered stable nations such as Montenegro, Kosovo, and Albania.
The government’s reformed aid package will include less cash in hand for asylum seekers but better non-cash benefits, including improved housing and language classes.
Merkel’s deputy, Sigmar Gabriel, said integrating the migrants into society would require confronting the fears of native Germans.
“I say this quite openly, there will be conflicts,” the economy minister told reporters. “The more openly we talk about the fact that people are worried, that there’s fear in the country and that there may be conflicts, will I think help us deal with this realistically and confront reality.”
Report by The Associated Press.
Migrant crisis: Greek authorities launch rescue operation
A rescue operation for the migrant boat has been carried out by the Greek authorities in the waters around the Lesbos island, as CCTV’s correspondent Filio Kontrafouri filed this report from Lesbos.
Bob Kitchen on EU migrant crisis
CCTV America spoke to Bob Kitchen, director of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit, International Rescue Committee as to how the refugee’s influx will impact on EU and what U.S. should do towards this issue.
Germany accepting thousands crossing through Europe
Europe’s leaders finally seem to be making progress on a response to the growing refugee crisis. A plan to share refugees more evenly between countries will be presented on Wednesday.
France says it’ll take in 24,000 refugees. Even an initially reluctant United Kingdom has agreed to agreed to accept 20,000 from Syria. But the thousands still crossing Europe are mostly heading to Germany.
CCTV’s Guy Henderson filed this report from Munich.
Germany accepting thousands crossing through EuropeEurope's leaders finally seem to be making progress on a response to the growing refugee crisis. A plan to share refugees more evenly between countries will be presented on Wednesday. France says it'll take in 24,000 refugees. Even an initially reluctant United Kingdom has agreed to agreed to accept 20,000 from Syria. But the thousands still crossing Europe are mostly heading to Germany. CCTV's Guy Henderson filed this report from Munich.
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Countries outside Europe react to refugee crisis
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CCTV’s Jim Spellman filed this report.