Austria, Hungary moves highlight EU disarray over migrants

AP News
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Posted: Feb 19, 2016 12:13 PM
Austria, Hungary moves highlight EU disarray over migrants

BERLIN (AP) — Austria raised the prospect of even tighter limits on the number of asylum seekers entering the country Friday while Hungary said it is shutting three railway border crossings with Croatia, highlighting the disarray within the European Union over migrants.

EU leaders at a summit in Brussels made little headway in the elusive search for joint solutions to the influx of refugees and other migrants, though they did agree to hold a meeting in early March with Turkey. German Chancellor Angela Merkel in particular views diplomacy with Turkey, from where hundreds of thousands have crossed to EU member Greece, as key to resolving the crisis.

Meanwhile, countries are pressing ahead with unilateral measures. Austria is allowing a maximum 80 people a day to apply for asylum at its southern border points as of Friday, a move it took despite claims it was illegal.

The decision wasn't immediately put to the test, though, with the main Spielfeld border crossing from Slovenia empty. Police spokesman Fritz Grundnig said the reason wasn't clear but that officers assumed there had been "a weather problem" in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece a couple of days ago.

Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner indicated that the cap could be tightened further.

"We will subsequently have to reduce the daily upper limits further," she was quoted as saying by the Austria Press Agency. She didn't name a timeframe or number but said such moves would be consulted on with neighboring countries.

In Hungary, Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said his country is closing three railway crossings with Croatia to block any migrants entering — a move he said was prompted by Croatian authorities sending a trainload of people toward Hungary under police escort.

Pinter didn't specify when the crossings would be closed.

In Munich, the most prominent domestic critic of Merkel's open-door approach demanded results from the summit with Turkey next month. Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer, who heads the smallest of three parties in Germany's governing coalition, reiterated calls for tougher border controls and a German cap on refugees.

"I would only say that more and more European countries, if not to say nearly all of them, are moving in this direction," he said.

In the eastern German state of Saxony, regional interior minister Markus Ulbig condemned as "deeply shameful" an incident in which a screaming mob blocked a bus full of migrants. A video circulating on social media shows several migrants inside the bus crying as people outside chant "We are the people!" and "Go home!"

Saxony police spokesman Rafael Scholz said the video showed an incident late Thursday in Clausnitz, south of Dresden. He said 100 people took part in the anti-migrant protest but police were able to prevent violence.