Warning: Graphic images below.
The migrant crisis deepened again across Europe on Wednesday, as hundreds of people remained stranded outside a Hungarian train station, hundreds more refugees were rescued at sea by the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and thousands arrived in mainland Greece.
Shocking photos of a drowned boy, thought to be one of 11 Syrian refugees who died after two boats trying to cross the Mediterranean sank, also caused an outcry on social media.
Tensions are growing among European Union (EU) member countries as to how to deal with the situation, but people across the continent have also made gestures of solidarity, such as donating food and drinks, and organizing demonstrations.
Amid calls for Britain to accept more refugees, the country’s Prime Minister David Cameron today defended the UK’s record and claimed that “taking more and more refugees” was not the answer.
Just 216 Syrian asylum seekers have qualified for the UK’s official Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme between January 2014 and August 27, and Cameron has said the final number will not exceed 1,000.
Meanwhile, a record 104,460 asylum seekers arrived in Germany last month, a Bavarian official said on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the police force in the southern city of Munich tweeted that around 590 refugees had arrived at the city’s main train station after traveling from Budapest, Hungary, and asked local residents to bring food and clothing. Thousands of people have arrived at Munich’s station this week.
Hours later, however, officers sent a message of thanks to those who brought supplies and asked for people to stop.
Solidarity protests have also been planned for Brussels on September 6 and in London on September 12.
Donated water and other drinks at the central train station in Munich. Photo by Sven Hoppe
Germany recently announced its suspension of the Dublin regulations, announcing it would accept applications from any Syrian asylum seeker who reached its territory, regardless of where they entered the EU. The suspension has caused confusion among neighboring countries, given that migrants without documentation are not technically allowed to travel across Europe, reported Reuters.
Berlin is pushing for a quota system to be agreed that would see asylum seekers spread evenly throughout EU countries. But at a joint press conference on Tuesday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said: “Some countries don’t want refugees,” he said. “You can’t force anyone [to take them].”
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The migrant crisis is putting increasing strain on relations between European leaders, particularly between Germany and the UK. Stephen Mayer, the Home Affairs spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, warned that the British-German bilateral relationship could be harmed if the UK did not share the responsibility in easing the “huge humanitarian burden.”
The migrants at Munich station had traveled from the Hungarian capital of Budapest, where it was reported that Hungary had briefly allowed large numbers to board trains at Keleti station and travel to Vienna and Germany on Monday without visa checks, according to theGuardian. Yesterday, Hungarian authorities closed the station in an apparent bid to enforce EU law.
Hundreds of migrants protested for a second day outside the station today, with the situation described as “very tense and unpredictable.”
According to television reports from Hungary’s ATV, as reported by the BBC, police officers have been sent to another station in the city of Debrecen after a group of migrants occupied a platform there, refusing to move to a registration center.
Mainland Greece has seen another influx of migrants and refugees, with reports of two ships carrying more than 4,200 people arriving overnight in the port of Piraeus, travelling from the island of Lesbos. Frontex, the European border agency, said that more than 23,000 migrants arrived in Greece by sea last week, almost 50 percent more than the previous week. On the Hungarian border with Serbia, authorities detected around 9,400 migrants last week.
Under the EU’s Dublin regulations, migrants and asylum seekers must be registered and processed in the first European country they enter. This has placed a strain on southern European countries such as Greece and Italy, where most migrants and asylum seekers first land.
Many of those seeking better lives have pushed on to find asylum in northern European countries. But this comes attached with desperate risk, as highlighted last week where the bodies of 71 people — including women and children — were found in an abandoned lorry near the Austrian border with Hungary, thought to have suffocated.