Europe divided as record numbers of migrants cross Europe



Röszke, Hungary, Sonia Bakaric with Eric Randolph in Vienna- Europe was increasingly divided over its refugee crisis on Thursday as record numbers of migrants streamed through the Balkans into Hungary, forcing Austria to suspend cross-border train services.
Germany, which is spearheading Europe's response to the emergency, warned that an EU plan to distribute 160,000 new arrivals among member states was a mere "drop in the ocean".



But the plan already faces stiff opposition from eastern members who say they will not accept binding quotas from Brussels.
As the historic influx continued unrelentingly, US President Barack Obama sought to respond to political pressure to help alleviate Europe's crisis by ordering his administration to admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees next year, amid criticism Washington has been slow to help.
Spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama had ordered staff to "scale up" the number of Syrian refugee admissions from around 1,500 in this fiscal year, to 10,000 in the next, beginning on October 1.
The US response came as Hungarian police said 3,321 people had entered in just 24 hours, hurrying to cross before harsh new anti-migrant laws take effect, an imposing new fence is completed, and the weather worsens.
Overstretched Hungarian police have struggled to control and register new arrivals seeking to board trains and buses heading for Austria.
Austria's train operator suspended services with Hungary on Thursday due to "massive overcrowding" and urged bus companies and volunteers stop bringing migrants to stations.
In Serbia, state television reported 5,000 more arrivals at the border with Hungary.
The UN refugee agency on Tuesday warned that at least 42,000 migrants were expected to enter Hungary by next week.
Many have endured treacherous sea journeys across the Mediterranean -- most fleeing war and poverty in Syria, Afghanistan or Pakistan.
On Macedonia's border with Greece, AFP journalists saw some 50 buses transporting around 2,500 migrants and three trains packed with 3,000 people departing from the town of Gevgelija.
- 'An accountancy exercise' -
EU interior ministers will meet Monday to discuss how to share the burden across the bloc and ease the burden on frontline states.
Germany, which has already welcomed 450,000 migrants this year, wants the 28-nation group to go further, calling for no limits to the quotas.
"The distribution of 160,000 refugees across Europe is a first step, if one wants to be polite," said Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel. "It's a drop in the ocean."
But binding quotas are facing fierce resistance from eastern EU members.
"It is inappropriate to talk about mandatory quotas, calculated on an extremely bureaucratic basis, almost like an accountancy exercise I might say, without consulting member states," said Romania President Klaus Iohannis.
His views echoed those of Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, who said Wednesday he did not "want to wake up one day and have 50,000 people here about whom we know nothing."
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will try to win over eastern European counterparts at a meeting in Prague on Friday.
Juncker's proposals include a possible revision of the EU's much-criticised Dublin Treaty, under which asylum claims must be processed by the first country that refugees arrive in.
EU lawmakers called for an international conference on migration bringing together the US, United Nations and Arab states.
- 'Walking for hours' -
Meanwhile, on the Greek island of Lesbos, another flashpoint, the boats kept arriving.
Hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- were making a gruelling 50-60 kilometre walk from their landing place to the main town where they must go to receive registration papers.
"We have been walking for four hours. There is no bus, no taxi, no water, no anything," said Mohammed Yassin al-Jahabra, a 23-year-old English literature student.
Earlier this week, officials on Lesbos registered a staggering 15,000 refugees in just over 24 hours after a huge backlog built up, leaving people stranded on the island for days in filthy conditions.
But the boats are still arriving at an astonishing pace, with six landing in the space of an hour on Wednesday, AFP correspondents said.
"As soon as I put my feet down (on dry land), I stopped feeling tired," said Feras Tahan, a 34-year-old Syrian graphic designer, his shoes and trousers soaked.
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Friday, September 11th 2015
Sonia Bakaric with Eric Randolph
           


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