Last Dash Into Hungary as Armed Police Shut Border

Countries across Europe follow Germany\'s lead by introducing controls to stem influx of migrants.

Published: 15th September 2015 07:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th September 2015 07:39 AM   |  A+A-

ROSZKE: Europe's migrant crisis deepened last night (Monday) after Hungary defied Brussels by sealing shut its border with Serbia, while countries across the continent followed Germany's lead by introducing border checks.

Hungary took unilateral action as Europe's home ministers, who are meeting in Brussels, remained deadlocked over emergency measures to gain control over the influx of tens of thousands of migrants in recent months.

By mid-afternoon yesterday a record 7,437 migrants, many of them Syrian refugees, had been recorded entering Hungary from Serbia, rushing to reach the crossing at Roszke before armed police shut the border.

At the Nickelsdorf border crossing, 8,000 were waiting for onward transport, with a further 4,500 stuck in the area around a second border crossing with Hungary, at Heiligenkreuz im Lafnitztal, according to Krone newspaper.

Hamza, a five-year old boy with floppy brown hair, in a yellow T-shirt, from Daraa in Syria, became the last person over the border into the European Union.

He trailed behind his mother, Fatima, who spoke only Arabic, his brother Abdullah, 8, and his four young sisters. One of the girls dragged a tiny pink holiday suitcase; apart from her mother's bundle, their only apparent possession.

As riot police barred the path behind him, Hamza boarded a waiting coach to take him to join an estimated 20,000 migrants heading for the border with Austria. Later, a freight train with its front end laced in coils of razor wire was driven into position to plug the remaining gap.

As Hungary closed its border, Slovenia said it was preparing for a massive influx of "several thousand" refugees now seeking alternatives routes north.

Alexander Dobrindt, the German transport minister, said he favoured bringing refugees to Germany on special trains, rather than regular services. But no special trains are running.

Austria has put 2,200 soldiers on standby to help with the relief effort for the stranded refugees, after Germany announced at the weekend it was reimposing some border controls in a move that threatens to unravel the Schengen agreement on borderless travel.

"If Germany carries out border controls, Austria must put strengthened border controls in place," the vice-chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner told a joint news conference with the Austrian chancellor, Werner Faymann. "We are doing that now."

The German move had a domino effect, with Slovakia announcing controls on its borders with Hungary and Austria; the Netherlands said it would make spot checks at its borders.

In Brussels ministers, including Theresa May, Britain's Home Secretary, appeared unable to reach agreement over a plan to force EU members to accept quotas for 160,000 migrants.

France and Germany are pressing for a timetable for accepting quotas, officials said, while Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic insist that accepting refugees must be voluntary.

Diplomats said a statement was expected to include a pledge to increase reception facilities in the frontline states of Greece and Italy.

Mrs May said the EU should redouble its efforts to head off economic migrants before they crossed into Europe. "We need to be setting up removal centres in transit countries in Africa," she said, citing Britain's work in Syria to help refugees. She said this could "offer protection to those who need it and return the economic migrants who do not."

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