Hungarian soldiers patrol along the temporary border fence in Roszke, Hungary, at the border between Hungary and Serbia, Sunday, September 13, 2015.
The extraordinary scenes came on the eve of emergency talks on the crisis in Brussels, when interior ministers are expected to lock horns over the European Commission’s controversial plan to spread migrants across the bloc.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Sunday that the measure might lead to disruption of railway services, but didn’t give further details.
But Germany’s commissioner for immigration, refugees and integration, Aydan Ozoguz, said Orban was being “extremely cynical” to describe refugee camps bordering Syria as safe environments.
Reporting on the unexpected move earlier and citing unnamed officials, German daily Bild said the closing of the border represented “a dramatic shift in refugee policy”.
In Berlin, demonstrators waved a Syrian flag with “Refugees Welcome” written on it, while rallies in Stockholm, Helsinki and Lisbon each attracted around 1,000 people, including at a picnic in the Finnish capital.But highlighting how the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants has divided the European Union, there were counter-demonstrations in eastern members of the bloc.
Arriving migrants are immediately taken to refugee centres to be registered as many German towns stretch themselves to cope with the surge in numbers. “This must be accompanied by the rapid implementation of a relocation programme as proposed by the European Commission”, it said in a statement.
“Sticking refugees in trains and sending them somewhere completely different to where they think they’re going reminds us of the darkest chapter of our continent’s history”, he said.
Germany, Europe’s largest and richest economy, has become a magnet for migrants making journeys by sea and land, often via Turkey and the Greek islands, and then onwards through the Balkans, Hungary and Austria. “We cannot just fix a ceiling and say I don’t care about anything above that”. She stresses there is no legal limit to the number of people fleeing persecution who have a right to asylum, but that those who have no such claim must return home quickly – in particular the many people coming in from the Balkan countries.
Berlin made clear it wanted European Union partners to share the burden.
“We thought that Germany was the only country that would treat us like human beings”, 27-year-old Hatem Ali Ahaj told Agence France-Presse, adding that he and his 16-year-old brother and their cousin had been walking through Europe for 22 days. “They’ll enable us to at least slow down the acute inflows of refugees”.
Germany and Austria have stressed the right to asylum for war refugees but Hungary has argued that most are economic migrants seeking better jobs and therefore not entitled to stay in the EU. “Germany has shown a lot of willingness to help, there have been many helpers and volunteers, but this helpfulness must not be overstretched”.
Peter Maurer, president of the Geneva-based global Committee of the Red Cross, praised Merkel for showing leadership in the crisis.
“I find it unsafe when a European country drifts in this direction”, he told the Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitungs.
“It is impossible to retreat”, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Sunday. They are to be distributed on a voluntary basis following opposition to the quota proposals.
But the interior minister of southern Bavaria state, which has taken the brunt of the influx, said controls would be maintained for “several weeks”. While many migrants viewed the military presence with suspicion, they were able to walk through a gap in the fence without being challenged.
The temporary suspension of the border-free Schengen Agreement came after more than 14,000 arrived at Munich station in response to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to allow free access to unregistered migrants gathering in Hungary.
Even though they all want to travel on to western Europe via neighbouring Austria, Hungarian authorities are trying to take the new arrivals to camps for registration.