Austria Makes Plea Over Refugee Burden as Thousands Board Trains to Vienna
Austria pleaded yesterday (Monday) for EU countries to work together in light of the biggest migrant crisis since the Second World War and called for states that do not accept their fair share of refugees to have their funding cut.
Johanna Mikl-Leitner, the Austrian interior minister, said that EU member states could not "cherry-pick" and resist accepting asylum seekers.
Countries that do not take their fair share should face "scrapping or cutting financial support", she told the German public broadcaster ZDF, and warned that Europe could "fail" because of the refugee issue.
She added that building a fence, as Hungary is doing on its border with Serbia, was no solution and the idea that such a move would discourage refugees was an "illusion".
Yesterday Austria started to inspect cars and lorries travelling from Hungary towards Vienna. The spot checks caused queues of up to 30 miles long to grow along the border, while there was a heavy police presence along the motorway. By midday, officials had detained 200 migrants and five people smugglers. "The main aim is to target smuggling gangs," said Helmut Marban, a police spokesman. "What is happening here are controls conducted by traffic police and security forces - these are not border controls."
Further back along the "pipeline" into Europe, the mass movement continued. Several trains set off from Hungary bound for Austria and Germany, carrying migrants who queued for hours to get tickets. Huge lines snaked around Budapest's central station back to the underpass that many people had called home for several days. Some trains were stopped and passengers removed, but others were allowed to continue. At 6.30pm a train carrying several hundred migrants pulled into Vienna.
Two trains were left stranded on the border after the Austrian Federal Railways refused to allow them to proceed, citing "overcrowding". But Roman Hahslinger, a police spokesman, said some people disembarked anyway and continued into Austria. Around 20,000 people demonstrated in Vienna against ill-treatment of migrants after the bodies of 71 refugees were found in an abandoned truck last week.
The EU said yesterday it could soon fund and set up reception facilities for asylum seekers in Hungary, as it is already doing in Italy and Greece. Yesterday the International Crisis Group said the Greek island of Lesbos was being pushed "beyond breaking point" by refugees arriving in the last few days, with 13,000 refugees and migrants now crammed on to the Aegean island.
So far this year more than 180,000 people, many of them fleeing Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, have reached Greece. Hungary has reported 140,000 arrivals.