The Latest: EU fails to agree plan to share 120,000 refugees

AP News
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Posted: Sep 14, 2015 7:45 PM
The Latest: EU fails to agree plan to share 120,000 refugees

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The latest developments as European governments rush to cope with the huge number of people moving across Europe. All times local (CET):

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12:30 a.m.

Hungary has deployed a boxcar bristling with razor wire to close a key border crossing and warned of deportations as part of a new effort to deal with a massive influx of migrants from countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

New laws that went into effect Tuesday also made it a criminal offense, punishable by prison or deportation, to damage Hungary's newly erected border defenses.

Hungarian officials have also ordered low-altitude airspace on the border reserved for police surveillance helicopters, while officers on horseback patrolled parts of the nearly 110-mile (175-kilometer) border.

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10:30 p.m.

The European Union has failed to reach agreement on a plan to share 120,000 refugees arriving in Italy, Greece and Hungary.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said late Monday after chairing a meeting of EU interior ministers that "it is premature for the Council to take a decision today."

Asselborn said that "even though we are in urgent circumstances we have to follow procedures."

The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary had been among the nations opposed leading up to the emergency meeting.

Earlier, they rubber-stamped a plan drawn up in May to share 40,000 refugees from Greece and Italy, but not all member states are yet willing to accept the number of refugees that have been allocated to them under that plan.

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8:55 p.m.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere says that the European Union nations have "agreed in principle" on the redistribution of 160,000 refugees from Italy, Greece and Hungary across most other member nations.

He said the tentative agreement at Monday's meeting of the 28 EU interior ministers had not fully laid down the quota of refugees the member states had to take in to get to the total. EU ministers had earlier approved a first batch of 32,000 refugees from Italy and Greece.

He said more work should be completed when the ministers meet again on Oct. 8.

His French counterpart, Bernard Cazeneuve, said there also was a push to assure a quick return of migrants who were not genuine refugees fleeing war or persecution.

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7:45 p.m.

Hungarian police have rolled a train carriage covered on one end with seven coils of razor wire up to the border with Serbia, where the improvised obstacle was used to cap a strategic gap in the country's border fence.

As darkness fell, officers pushed the carriage along rail lines that in recent weeks had been the most popular path for migrants to enter Hungary on foot. The cargo carriage went straight into the remaining hole between 13-foot-high (4-meter-high) fences on either side.

Authorities want that part of the previous border crossing covered with the cargo container, so that the rail line can be opened for sporadic rail traffic and closed again easily. Hungary had canceled train services on the line in recent weeks because of the incessant presence of hundreds using the tracks as a path north.

Hungary continued to permit migrants to enter the country on a nearby road checkpoint. From there, authorities appeared determined Monday night to help as many migrants as possible reach Austria, the next nation on the travelers' itinerary, rather than try to keep them in one of Hungary's own asylum registration centers.

Hundreds being bussed from the border were taken to a nearby train station in the village of Roszke, where authorities told them they would be taken all the way northwest to Hungary's border with Austria.

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6:25 p.m.

Hundreds of migrants trying to enter Hungary from Serbia have walked away from a rail line now being blocked by Hungarian security forces and are massing at a police checkpoint at a nearby road.

There, dozens of police are letting small groups of migrants through to a fleet of waiting buses heading to asylum registration shelters.

"Hurry up! They're letting us through!" excited walkers shouted in Arabic at the checkpoint, one of several police-supervised border crossings with Serbia that Hungary plans to keep open for vehicles and migrants on foot.

Four officers on horseback patrolled Hungary's border fence Monday as engineers rolled out wire mesh and razor-wire coils to complete it. Hungary has tough new immigration laws taking effect at midnight that will make it a crime to tamper with the fence or climb around it to enter the country.

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6:15 p.m.

Finland says it will increase monitoring its borders as hundreds of asylum seekers flood in daily from Sweden.

The Nordic country will also open reception centers for migrants in northern Finland, especially along the border.

Officials say about 1,700 asylum seekers arrived in Finland last week, many of them by train through Sweden to a border crossing where there are no identity checks.

Interior Minister Petteri Orpo on Monday described the situation as "extremely difficult," as many migrants have not registered with officials and have continued their journey south by train or bus from the sparsely populated Lapland region.

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5:45 p.m.

Romania's president says his country is not "xenophobic, autistic, or separatist," but just unable to absorb large numbers of migrants.

President Klaus Iohannis said Romania wanted to help in Europe's migrant crisis, suggesting it could beef up the external borders of the European Union. He said Romania's problem is not finding shelter for migrants but integrating them.

Romania says it can receive 1,785 migrants, but the EU has asked the country to take in an extra 4,650 people.

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5:30 p.m.

European Union nations have agreed on an initial relocation of some 32,000 refugees away from Italy and Greece to other nations in the bloc.

The total still stops short of the 40,000 initially sought, and is only a small part of the relocation of another 120,000 refugees under discussion Monday at an extraordinary meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels.

Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn of Luxembourg said the first relocations could start "quickly." The EU nations had already agreed in principle on the number last July.

The ministers also agreed the nations taking on the burden of relocation would receive a lump sum of 6,000 euros ($6,750) per refugee.

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5:10 p.m.

Dozens of Hungarian police have moved onto the rail line near Roszke that has been a major border crossing point for migrants, moving to close a key gap in the country's 110-mile (177-kilometer) border fence.

Hundreds of migrants seeking to enter Hungary have been halted in their tracks as engineers string barbed wire along steel fence posts. A police helicopter is hovering overhead.

Police are telling the migrants to head through farm fields to Hungary's nearest approved border crossing, a road 2 kilometers (1 mile) to the west. Police say they plan to block the rail line itself later with a train cargo container covered with seven coils of razor wire.

Migrants will still be able to cross into Hungary by road, rail, or on foot at road checkpoints.

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5 p.m.

An Iraqi refugee from Mosul, walking into Hungary with his family, says Islamic State extremists had made life impossible for them at home.

Speaking at the Hungarian border town of Roszke, 34-year-old Raed Waleed Abdullah told The Associated Press "every day, the Islamic State group is issuing new orders and the situation is terrible. I had no income, there is no electricity and they were forcing us to live according to their ways ... (we) reject their harsh values."

His wife, Hala Khalil, mother of his three children, said "those who refused to obey them would be thrown from tall buildings. They are inflicting so much suffering."

Abdullah sold his apartment and taxi in Mosul to raise $11,000 to pay smugglers to get his family across the Aegean Sea from the Turkish city of Izmir. Then they spent nine days on the road before reaching Hungary.

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4:35 p.m.

German police say they will conduct rolling checkpoints on major roads coming from Austria in a search for asylum seekers, but will not check every vehicle and driver for passports.

Bavarian police official Mathias Knott said the controls "are flexible in terms of where and when they will be in place." Knott was speaking on the side of the major A8 highway connecting Salzburg, western Austria, with the German cities of Munich and Stuttgart.

Knott said police would vary their checkpoints depending on where large numbers of asylum seekers are expected to be.

On the German side of the A8 crossing, officers placed warning lights and cones on the road and selected individual vehicles to be searched. The extra security backed up traffic for three kilometers (two miles).

On trains from Austria, German police were removing asylum seekers at the first German station they reached and placing them on buses bound for refugee housing nationwide.

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4:25 p.m.

The Canadian Red Cross says it's sending more than 10,000 cots and a similar number of blankets to Germany to help the German Red Cross deal with the massive influx of refugees and other migrants.

Canadian Red Cross CEO and President Conrad Suave visited camps in Germany over the past week and said much more aid would be needed.

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4:05 p.m.

Hungarian police have unveiled the obstacle they intend to deploy to block the most high-profile gap in their border security fence: a rail container lined top to bottom with razor wire.

In recent months, people arriving in Hungary from Serbia have walked across the border on train tracks near the village of Roszke, despite razor-wire-topped fences on either side.

The cargo container is expected to be rolled at midnight down to the border and will entirely block the gap. It can be removed to allow trains to pass.

The government now says, starting Tuesday, people seeking asylum in Hungary or deeper in Europe must use a police-supervised road crossing. Anyone trying to get through the fence will face criminal charges and potential imprisonment or deportation back to Serbia.

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3:15 p.m.

Germany's new border checks have caused traffic jams as long as 20 kilometers (12 miles) on highways in Austria.

Austrian highway operator Asfinag said the longest traffic jam Monday was at Suben on the A8 highway near the German city of Passau, according to the Austria Press Agency.

There was also a 10-kilometer (6-mile) traffic jam on the A10 highway at Salzburg at one point.

Germany says refugees will still be welcomed into the country regardless of the border controls it introduced late Sunday but they will come in a more orderly manner.

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3:05 p.m.

Hungary's prime minister has spelled out the new laws on immigration that are taking effect at midnight.

Hungary hopes to imprison human traffickers and deport back to Serbia migrants who do not use police-supervised border checkpoints to register with authorities.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban told border police on Monday that "illegal border crossings will no longer be misdemeanors but felonies punishable with prison terms or bans."

He added "punishment for human trafficking will be so severe that it will be really deserved by those who do business with the life and fate of others."

Still, Orban advised police to use minimum force and treat the newcomers as fellow human beings. Hungarian police detained 5,809 migrants Sunday, shattering the previous one-day mark of 4,330 set Saturday.

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2:50 p.m.

The European Union is looking for member states to contribute military ships and planes for an international operation in the Mediterranean to counter human trafficking.

If the program is approved, the ships could seize and divert vessels carrying no national flags in international waters but not in a nation's territorial waters. The EU would still need to set up rules of engagement to see whether lethal force could be used to stop smugglers.

The approval process could still take several weeks.

The EU said Monday it had finished the analysis needed for such an operation.

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2:40 p.m.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has told police bound for the Serbian border that they must "defend Hungary and Europe" and "protect our way of life."

In a ceremony Monday at Budapest's grandiose Heroes Square, where statues honor the founding fathers of Hungary, Orban told 860 officers that new laws on Tuesday would allow them to arrest and charge those who get through the country's new border fence with criminal offenses that can end in prison or deportation.

Orban said he hoped the new measures would deter foreigners from traveling into Hungary. He says "Hungary is a country with a thousand-year-old Christian culture. We Hungarians don't want the worldwide movement of people to change Hungary."

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1:55 p.m.

Poland's prime minister says the European Union's outside borders must be strictly controlled in the face of a huge surge of immigrants.

Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz also said Monday that Poland would restore its own border controls if it saw any outside threats. She did not elaborate.

The EU's interior ministers are discussing how to share 160,000 asylum seekers among the bloc's 28 nations at a meeting Monday in Brussels.

Kopacz said Poland will not agree to the refugee quota — some 12,000 people — that the EU wants it to accept. She says "we will accept the number of refugees that we can afford, not one more, not one less."

Poland says it can handle over 2,000 refugees.

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1:30 p.m.

Austria's interior minister says the country will follow Germany in introducing border controls to manage the flow of people coming in from Hungary.

Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said the Alpine nation "will proceed as Germany does." Speaking in Brussels, she said the checks would be introduced "as soon as possible" on the Austrian-Hungarian border.

Tens of thousands of people fleeing their homelands are trekking now through Europe by train, bus or foot. Those seeking to go to Germany usually go through Hungary and Austria first.

Germany over the weekend introduced border checks to deal with Europe's immigration emergency and Slovakia made a similar announcement Monday.

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1:15 p.m.

The German government says refugees will continue to come to Germany after it introduced controls on the border with Austria but it hopes they do so in a more orderly manner.

Germany introduced the border checks Sunday after thousands came in by train over the past week. In the southern city of Munich, by far the main point of entry, 12,200 migrants arrived Saturday and 7,100 came Sunday.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Monday that "temporary border controls are not a closure of the border."

He added "refugees will continue to come to Germany. We hope that this can happen in a more orderly process and in a pan-European process in which every state does its duty in solidarity."

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12:15 p.m.

Germany's vice chancellor is defending his nation's decision to introduce border controls at certain crossing points over the weekend.

Sigmar Gabriel said in a letter to his Social Democratic Party that the move is "not about a closing of borders and absolutely not a suspension of the basic rights to asylum."

But, he said, it should be seen as a "clear signal" to our "European partners that Germany, even if we are prepared to provide disproportionate assistance, cannot accommodate all of the refugees alone."

He added "we hope that we will need the border controls only for a short time and that our partners will make clear that they are prepared to share in Europe's responsibility."

Gabriel says Germany expects to see 1 million refugees and migrants enter the country this year.

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12 noon

Slovakia has renewed checks on its borders with Hungary and Austria due to the immigration crisis.

The announcement Monday by Slovakia's Interior Ministry comes a day after Germany did the same on its border with Austria.

Slovakia said 220 extra officers have been deployed at border crossings and along the border, and said it was coordinating with police forces in neighboring Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic on Sunday boosted its presence along its border with Austria but has not reintroduced border checks yet.

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11:40 a.m.

Germany's vice chancellor says the country can expect 1 million migrants this year, raising the previous estimate by 200,000.

Sigmar Gabriel said in a letter to members of his Social Democratic Party that "everything points the fact that we won't have 800,000 migrants as has been predicted by the Interior Ministry but 1 million."

In the letter, Gabriel called for other European countries to do more, saying there had to be a "common European effort" to tackling the refugee crisis. Germany takes in more asylum seekers than any other EU nation by far.

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11:35 a.m.

Over 5,800 people fleeing their homelands have entered Hungary in one day, by far the highest number this year, as the country prepares to apply new immigration rules and tighter border controls.

Hungarian police detained 5,809 migrants Sunday, shattering the previous one-day mark of 4,330 set Saturday.

By 8 a.m. Monday, police said another 3,280 people had been detained for crossing the border illegally, taking Hungary's 2015 total to nearly 195,000.

Hungarian authorities hope reinforced border patrols, a 4-meter (13-feet) high fence on the border with Serbia and new laws criminalizing those entering Hungary illegally or cutting through the fence will deter migrants from coming to Hungary as they try to make their way to Germany and other, wealthier EU nations.