Friday 20 July 2018

Hungary demands EU does more to help with refugees

A woman with a baby enters Macedonia from Greece on the border line between the two countries, near southern Macedonia’s town of Gevgelija
A woman with a baby enters Macedonia from Greece on the border line between the two countries, near southern Macedonia’s town of Gevgelija

Harriet Alexander in Budapest

Hungary has called for the European Union to do more to assist with the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, as a record number of migrants crossed its borders yesterday to enter the EU.

Police in the central European country - on the boundary of the EU - registered 2,093 migrants, the highest daily tally so far this year. Hungary is building a fence on its southern border with Serbia to fend off the rising numbers of migrants.

And Janos Lazar, chief of staff for Hungary's Right-wing prime minister Viktor Orban, lashed out at the EU for not doing enough - despite the European Commission pledging nearly €8m in aid and various other measures for Hungary.

"The European Union distributes border protection funds in a humiliating way," he said. "Old member states have nicked the money from new members.

"If we do not take meaningful steps, we will become a rescue boat that sinks beneath the weight of those clinging onto it."

More than 100,000 migrants, many of them refugees from conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, have entered Hungary, part of the Schengen zone of passport-free travel, this year - en route to the more affluent countries of western and northern Europe.

Mr Lazar's comments came as the UN warned that 3,000 migrants a day would soon be passing through Macedonia - the latest flashpoint in the migrants crisis sweeping Europe.

The Balkans have become increasingly popular transit countries into Europe, as Greece and Italy continue to struggle to cope, and migrants leave refugee camps in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.

Not since the wars of Yugoslavia's collapse in the 1990s has the cash-strapped western Balkans seen such large movements of people.

Germany said last week it expects a record 800,000 asylum-seekers to arrive this year, in a crisis overwhelming authorities in Europe from the Greek islands to the French port of Calais.

"We do not see any end to the influx of people in coming months," said Melissa Fleming, chief spokesman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). She said continued violence in both Iraq and Syria and "worsening conditions" for Syrian refugees in the Middle East was driving them towards the frontiers of Europe.

The 28 member states of the European Union must ensure "equitable distribution" of asylum-seekers, she said, adding: "We honestly believe if correct measures are taken this is something that Europe can handle."

Bulgaria, however, was yesterday taking matters into its own hands, announcing that it was sending in the army to buttress the south-western border with Macedonia - hit in recent days by an unprecedented influx of migrants.

Twenty-five soldiers and light armoured vehicles will be deployed at Bulgaria's four border checkpoints with Macedonia, a defence ministry operations and training deputy chief told public BNR radio.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit a refugee shelter at the centre of recent riots by neo-Nazis, an official said yesterday, as German leaders seek to address a spate of violence that has accompanied a surge in migrants this year.

Merkel will travel to Heidenau, south of Dresden, today to meet refugees, support workers and local officials, her spokesman, Steffen Seibert said.

Dozens of police were injured when a far-right mob hurled bottles and fireworks at officers trying to ensure asylum seekers could move into the repurposed hardware store on Friday and Saturday.

Merkel called the incident "shocking" and "shameful".

In Berlin, police said yesterday they were investigating a weekend incident in which two "highly intoxicated" men yelled anti-foreigner epithets at an eastern European woman and her children on the subway. One of the men then urinated on the five and 15-year-old children, police said. The two men, aged 32 and 37, were arrested.

Also yesterday, police in Brandenburg said a fire overnight at a gym intended as temporary housing for refugees was likely the result of arson. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News