Saturday, September 19, 2015

Islamic invasion of Europe update (September 19, 2015)

10,000 migrants pour into Austria as crisis deepens
Vienna (AFP) - Austria was bracing for an influx of 10,000 migrants on Saturday, as Europe's increasingly divided countries stepped up efforts to push the wave of desperate humanity on to their neighbours.

In the latest chapter in the EU's escalating refugee crisis, Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia tussled over how to cope with the massive inflow of people passing through on their way to new lives in northern and western Europe.

The European Union, meanwhile, sketched out plans to boost aid to encourage Syrians in Turkey to stay put rather than join the exodus.

Hungary's right-wing government, which has faced international criticism over violent clashes with migrants and a hastily erected fence along its frontier with Serbia, has vowed to "defend its borders" against the flood of new arrivals, most of whom are from the Middle East and Africa.

But in a shift in tactics late Friday, Hungarian authorities began transporting thousands of migrants straight to the border with Austria, an apparent bid to move them through and out of their territory as quickly as possible.

Austrian police said Hungary had bussed at least 6,700 people to the border, with a total of 10,000 arrivals expected in the Burgenland border region by the end of Saturday.

There was no let-up in the stream of people making the gruelling journey across the Balkans into western Europe, with Croatia saying 20,700 had entered the country since Wednesday.

Migrants surge into Western Europe through Austria
SZENTGOTTHARD, Hungary (AP) — Thousands of migrants flooded into Austria on Saturday after days of being shuttling from one country to another or seeing their paths into Western Europe blocked by border guards with dogs, razor-wire fences, barricaded bridges or riot police.

Austrian police said some 6,700 people traveled to the central European country from Hungary after being trapped Friday in a vicious tug-of-war as bickering European governments rapidly shut down border crossings or erected new fences to cut down the torrent of asylum-seekers. [...]

Tens of thousands more are expected as people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia cross the seas from Turkey to Greece and head north through Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary. On Saturday, the Greek coast guard said a 5-year-old girl found in the sea off the island of Lesbos died after the boat she traveled on sank, and 14 others were missing.

The normal routes north into Western Europe have all but disintegrated this week.

Asylum-seekers who had headed into Croatia after being beaten back by tear gas and water cannons on the Hungarian-Serbian border this week found themselves being returned on buses or trains back to Serbia or Hungary after Croatia declared it could not handle 20,700 people who have arrived since Wednesday. Those who went from Croatia to Slovenia, seeking another way into Austria, faced blocked bridges and determined Slovenian riot police.

Some nominal cooperation emerged Saturday as Croatia bused people to Hungary, who bused them to Austria.

Hungary's military, meanwhile, announced it was calling up 500 army reservists to further reinforce its borders.

Though sympathetic to their plight, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic demanded that the European Union step forward and take responsibility for the people in transit through this country of 4.2 million.

"We're flooded, local communities are flooded, the numbers of refugees in some areas is far greater (than) the number of local residents," she told The Associated Press. "So we need to control, we need to stop the flow, we need to get reassurances from European Union about what happens to these people who are already in Croatia."

Mindful that hundreds of migrants were walking through Croatian cornfields and forests to cross her country, Kitarovic stressed that further measures would be taken to secure Croatia's borders. She also warned of the dangers of mines leftover from the country's 1991-95 war.

German interior minister calls for limits on migrants to EU
Berlin (AFP) - Germany's interior minister on Saturday said the European Union in the future should take in a finite number of migrants while sending the rest back to a safe country in their home regions.

"We cannot accept all the people who are fleeing conflict zones or poverty and want to come to Europe or Germany," Thomas de Maiziere said in an interview with the German news weekly Spiegel.

De Maiziere has taken a tougher line in the current crisis of tens of thousands of migrants sweeping across Europe, many heading for Germany, than the country's leader Angela Merkel.

For the conservative minister, Europe must refrain from setting relatively generous quotas of refugees, creating instead "a legal means of immigration" with a cap on the number of people the continent can be responsible for.

Once the continental limit on refugees has been reached, De Maiziere said they should be sent back to their "region of origin" to a place where "they can live in security and without persecution".

"We should financially help the countries concerned," he added.

Polish right joins eastern EU's anti-migrant camp
Warsaw (AFP) - Poland's conservative party chief who appears poised to win the October general election has ruled out taking in refugees, bolstering the hardline of other eastern EU countries on the migrant crisis.

"Do you want us to stop calling the shots in our own country? Poles don't want this," Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said this week during a special Polish parliamentary session on the crisis.

"We're definitely in favour of helping, but in a safe way. In other words, financially," the right-wing eurosceptic added, insisting Poland should not take in any refugees.

The European Union is struggling to cope with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing conflicts in Africa, Asia and the Middle East -- especially Syria.

The influx -- the greatest migratory flow in Europe since the end of World War II -- has created a deep rift between western and poorer eastern EU members, with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban leading the hardline group.

The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have staunchly rejected a European Commission plan to relocate 160,000 refugees among the bloc's 28 states via a compulsory quota system.

This anti-migrant front will spread if -- as opinion polls suggest -- Kaczynski's populist party wins the general election on October 25 and comes to power in the eastern European powerhouse.

Migrants at Turkey-Greece border demand passage to Europe
EDIRNE, Turkey (AFP) - Tensions rose Saturday in the northwestern Turkish city of Edirne, where around 2,000 migrants have been blocked by police from reaching the nearby border with Greece for nearly a week.

The migrants have been facing off with police since Tuesday, when local authorities sealed off the main road from the east to groups of mostly Syrian refugees arriving from other parts of Turkey.

The standoff has been devoid of the violence that has characterised confrontations between migrants and police in some parts of Europe but tensions edged higher on Saturday afternoon, with riot police using batons to disperse a group of around 300 people who tried to force their way past police lines.

The demonstrating migrants were from a group that has been refusing to budge from the road outside Edirne.

Around 1,000 migrants, many of them children, spent another night in makeshift camps by the roadside, around 10 kilometres (six miles) from the Greek border and 20 km from the border with Bulgaria.

Hundreds more accepted the city's offer of a tent, showers and hot meal in a stadium used for traditional Turkish oil wrestling competitions.

The migrants are demanding to be allowed to cross into Greece by land instead of risking their lives in overcrowded migrant boats in the Aegean Sea.

"Open the doors," the group of migrants that tried to storm police barricades chanted.

One refugee hurled excrement at the officers, an AFP photographer witnessed.

Italian coastguard: Nearly 4,700 migrants rescued off Libya coast, some with signs of stabbings
MILAN (Reuters) - Nearly 4,700 migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya on Saturday as they tried to reach Europe but one woman was found dead, Italy's coastguard said.

Tens of thousands of people, mainly from Africa and the Middle East, have tried to cross the Mediterranean this year, often dangerously packed into small vessels unsuitable for the voyage.

The coastguard said in a statement it had coordinated 20 rescue operations involving numerous vessels which picked up 4,343 migrants from rubber boats and barges. In one of the inflatable boats a woman's body was found, the coastguard said, without specifying the possible cause of death.

Another 335 people were picked up as part of a rescue mission coordinated by Greece and were being directed to a port in Italy to disembark. [...]

Signs of stabbings were found among a group of migrants rescued between Malta and Libya this morning.

A number of asylum seekers claimed they were beaten up and robbed just before being put on a boat. They were picked up by the Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station (Moas).

The migrants were treated by doctors from Médecins Sans Frontières and are now on their way to Italy. None of the migrants are in serious condition.

The Moas vessel Phoenix rescued 301 migrants, mostly men from West Africa, in three operations.

Meanwhile, a five-year old girl died and as many as 13 migrants may be missing at sea off the Greek island of Lesbos, the Greek coastguard said today.

Right-wing Hungarian mayor warns migrants away
For one far-right village mayor, Hungary's tough new anti-migrant measures are not enough.

Laszlo Toroczkai, the mayor of Asotthalom, has put out a short video warning asylum-seekers to stay out of his village of 4,000. Made in the style of an action film, it shows security guards patrolling by car, horseback, motorcycle and even helicopter.

It closes with Toroczkai telling migrants if "you want to get to Germany, then the shortest journey from Serbia is through Croatia and Slovenia. Do not trust the lying human traffickers. Hungary is a bad choice. Asthottalom is the worst."

Asthottalom is near the border with Serbia, an area where more than 200,000 migrants have passed through this year en route to Western Europe.

The film has gotten a lot of attention in Hungary, with some mocking the video, others expressing support for his anti-immigrant stance.