Eastern Europe rejects quotas, videos reveal refugee brutality
by Daily Sabah with AFP
ISTANBULSep 12, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah with AFP
Sep 12, 2015 12:00 am
Eastern Europe rejected migrant quotas on Friday despite German warnings over the biggest challenge in EU history amid disturbing footage of refugees in Hungary being fed like animals.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met his counterparts from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia in Prague, but failed to convince them to accept an EU plan to distribute 160,000 refugees around the continent. "We're convinced that as countries we should keep control over the number of those we are able to accept," Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said after the meeting.
A record number of people, many of them fleeing war and conflict, have continued to pour into Europe, with around 7,600 entering Macedonia in the last 24 hours.
Hungary's response has been to send more troops to help build a four-meter-high fence along its southern border, and images from inside its controversial Roszke holding camp showed families being fed "like animals in a pen," with hungry women and children caught in a scrum as police threw sandwiches at them. "It was inhumane and it really speaks for these people that they didn't fight over the food despite being clearly very hungry," Austrian volunteer Michaela Spritzendorfer said, who filmed the scene. Her team raised further concerns over the treatment of refugees in Hungary, which saw a record number of arrivals on Thursday, and is set to implement harsh new laws next week that will allow it to jail migrants. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), welcomed the EU plan to distribute refugees, but said more was needed to alleviate pressure on frontline states.
"The relocation scheme can only succeed if it is accompanied by large-scale emergency reception, assistance and registration efforts in the countries most impacted by arrivals, particularly Greece, Hungary and Italy," said spokesman William Spindler, adding that 200,000 places would be needed by the end of 2016.
Meanwhile, a Hungarian camerawoman who caused global outrage after being caught on film tripping and kicking refugees, including children, as they fled police said she had "panicked." "I'm not a heartless, child-kicking, racist camera-person," said Petra Laszlo, who was sacked by N1TV, an Internet-based television station close to Hungary's far-right Jobbik party, after the footage went viral.
The numbers of migrants streaming through the Balkans into Hungary on Thursday was the highest yet recorded, with many braving police truncheons and torrential rain in their desperate attempt to reach Western Europe.
Much of Eastern Europe remains bitterly opposed to relocating migrants, even though the vast majority are heading north. Of 16,000 migrants registered in Austria since Monday, all but around 1,100 are aiming for Germany, local authorities said. "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," Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said. His views chimed with 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."
EU lawmakers called for an international conference on migration bringing together the United States, the United Nations and Arab countries. Facing criticism that his government has been too slow to help, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees over a year starting Oct. 1.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama had ordered staff to "scale up" the number after more than 62,000 Americans signed a petition calling on Washington to take in more people. Meanwhile on Lesbos, the boats kept arriving, with hundreds making a grueling 50 kilometer to 60 walk from their landing place to the main town to be registered. "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. Thousands of people have been forced to camp on the streets in squalid conditions, and there were repeated clashes as riot police struggled to control huge crowds pressing forward to board ferries.
The turmoil in the Middle East and the more than four-year civil war in Syria have led many people to flee the conflict in an attempt to seek security and shelter in more prosperous and peaceful countries and regions, such as in Europe. More than 380,000 people have arrived in Europe by sea this year, according to the new figures from UNHCR.