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China, India struggle to put a lid on their border row involving Bhutan

چینی وزارت دفاع نے بھارت سے مطالبہ کیا ہے کہ نئی دہلی حکومت دونوں ممالک کے مابین متنازعہ سرحدی علاقے پر تعینات اپنے فوجی ’فوری طور پر‘ واپس بلا لے۔ دونوں ممالک کے مابین اس معاملے کے باعث کشیدگی پائی جاتی ہے۔ حالیہ ہفتوں کے دوران چین اور بھارت کے مابین متنازعہ سرحدی علاقے میں بھارتی فوجوں کی تعیناتی کے بعد سے ہمسایہ ممالک کے مابین کشیدگی میں اضافہ ہوا ہے۔ اس سرحدی تنازعے کے باعث سفارتی سطح پر دونوں ممالک کے تعلقات میں مسلسل کشیدگی اور دونوں جانب کے عوام عوام میں ’قوم پسندانہ جذبات‘ بھی بڑھ رہے ہیں۔ بھارت کسی زعم میں نہ رہے، سرحد کا دفاع کرنا جانتے ہیں، چین متنازعہ خطے سے بھارتی فوجی انخلا امن کی پہلی شرط، چینی سفیر چین کے سرکاری نیوز ایجنسی ژنہاؤ کے مطابق بیجنگ کی وزارت دفاع نے بھارت سے اپنے فوجی ’فوری طور پر‘ اس متنازعہ سرحدی علاقے سے واپس بلا لینے کا مطالبہ چار اگست بروز جمعہ کیا ہے۔ چینی وزارت دفاع کے ترجمان رین گواچیانگ کا کہنا تھا کہ بھارتی فوجوں کی جانب سے چین کی سرحدی حدود میں داخل ہونے کے بعد بیجنگ نے ’انتہائی برداشت کا مظاہرہ‘ کیا ہے، لیکن چین کی برداشت کی بھی ایک حد ہے۔ بھارت کو تنبیہہ کرتے ہوئے چینی وزارت دفاع کے ترجمان کا مزید کہنا تھا کہ ’تاخیری حربے استعمال کر کے بھارت کسی غلط فہمی میں نہ رہے‘ اور چین کے ’اعتماد اور دفاعی صلاحیتوں‘ کے بارے میں بھی بھارت کو ’غلط اندازہ‘ نہیں لگانا چاہیے کیوں کہ ’چین اپنی خودمختاری اور مفادات کا دفاع‘ کرنے کی بھرپور صلاحیت رکھتا ہے۔ چینی ٹی وی پر آج ایک ویڈیو نشر کی گئی جس میں تبت میں کسی نامعلوم مقام پر چینی فوجوں کو جنگی مشقیں کرتے دکھایا گیا ہے۔ ویڈیو میں دکھایا گیا ہے کہ چینی فوج کا ایک اہلکار فائرنگ کا حکم دیتا ہے جس کے بعد یکے بعد دیگرے کئی راکٹ فائر کیے جاتے ہیں۔ علاوہ ازیں چینی آرٹلری کو توپوں میں گولہ بارود لوڈ کرتے ہوئے بھی دکھایا گیا ہے۔ چین اور بھارت کے مابین اس حالیہ سرحدی تنازعے کا آغاز جون میں ہوا تھا۔ چین کا الزام ہے کہ بھارتی فوجیں چین، بھارت اور نیپال کے سنگم پر واقع سرحدی علاقے میں چین کی سرحدی حدود میں داخل ہو گئی تھیں۔ بھارت کے انتہائی شمال مشرق میں ہمالیائی سطح مرتفع پر واقع اس علاقے کو ہندی میں ’دوکلام‘ اور چینی زبان میں ’دونگ لانگ‘ کہا جاتا ہے۔ چین کے مطابق بھارت نے اپنے اتحادی بھوٹان کی سرحد کے قریب اس چینی علاقے میں داخل ہو کر سن 1890 میں طے پانے والے اس سرحدی معاہدے کی خلاف ورزی کی ہے جو کہ چین اور اس وقت کے برصغیر میں برسراقتدار برطانوی حکومت کے مابین طے پایا تھا۔ دوسری جانب بھارت کا کہنا ہے کہ چینی فوجوں نے بھوٹانی علاقے میں سڑک تعمیر کرنے کی کوشش کی تھی جس کے بعد بھوٹان کی جانب سے شکایت اور مداخلت کی اپیل کے بعد بھارتی فوجیں اس علاقے میں روانہ کی گئی تھیں۔

The continuing standoff between India and China along their shared border has cast a dark shadow on their bilateral relationship. It has also stoked nationalism on both sides, making it tough to resolve the issue. Beijing is intensifying its warnings to Indian troops to get out of a contested region high in the Himalayas where China, India and Bhutan meet. ... Read More »

Brisk business for smugglers in Greece

After a period of quiet following the closure of the Balkan route, people smugglers have returned to northern Greece and profits continue to roll in. Pavlos Zafiropoulos reports from Thessaloniki. In a small kebab shop across the broad avenue that runs in front of the Thessaloniki train station, clusters of migrants drink tea and huddle around electrical outlets charging their phones. Over the past two years the shop, a family-run business operated by Evangelia Karanikolas and her husband, developed into a key stopping point for many migrants and refugees looking to travel the so-called Balkan route to northern Europe. Karanikolas offered free use of the electricity and bathrooms to people sleeping rough in the nearby square and abandoned buildings. She also provided free food when she could, and even a warm place to sleep for some families when the weather was cold. For this reason she has become known to many migrants as 'Mammi'. Today, even following the sealing of the border with Macedonia, little appears to have changed. The numbers of migrants and refugees may be well below the great tide of people who traveled the route in 2015 and early 2016. Yet migrants are still coming - and going. "In any way, they are trying to find some way out," Karanikolas told DW. When asked, a number of the migrants in the shop confirm that they are seeking passage out of Greece. Moving in and out of the shop over the course of the day one can also see other, distinctly better dressed individuals. One such person, Sharif,* told DW that he was a "tourist" in town for a few days. Speaking in an accent with heavy East London tones he claimed that he was visiting the shop merely to be with other Afghans. A few hours later however he could be seen in a nearby dark, abandoned building conversing heavily with an Afghan family who had set up tents for the night. Other migrants told DW that the family had recently attempted to head north but had been picked up by the police in Macedonia and returned to Greece. Now they were considering their options. For a tourist, Sharif behaved very much like a smuggler. Leaky borders The unprecedented movement of people that saw approximately 1 million mainly Syrian and Iraqi refugees reaching northern Europe in 2015-2016 may have been stemmed following efforts to seal Greece's northern borders coupled with the EU-Turkey agreement. Yet today migrants and refugees continue to head north through a number of illicit channels, passing under the radar of immigration officials and filling the coffers of criminal people smuggling networks to the tune of tens of millions of euros. "I would say it is on the rise," one high-ranking police official involved in efforts to combat people smuggling networks in Thessaloniki told DW with regards to the smugglers' activity. "Following the closure of the Balkan route there was a period of relative calm, shall we say, while people waited to see what would happen, what the policies were going to be. Now in recent weeks we have seen a rise in arrests... There are active organizations and there are people who wish to be smuggled, it's the law of supply and demand." The precise numbers of people successfully being smuggled out of Greece are impossible to know for certain. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal citing European immigration officials stated that the whereabouts of as many as 13,000 migrants and refugees who had been registered in Greece is currently unknown. The same article, citing unnamed Greek and European officials, claimed that about 500 per week were being smuggled over the northern border. Yet experts say this figure is necessarily little more than an estimate. Nebulous networks According to police to be smuggled from Thessaloniki to Belgrade usually costs at least between 800 and 1,300 euros ($852-$1,384) per head. Another 1,500 euros is required to reach Germany. Often this money is not paid by the migrants directly but by their families through networks spread across multiple countries. Such prices reflect both the demand for smugglers as well as the difficulty in crossing the border. When movement across the border was largely unimpeded, prices collapsed. Now that the Balkan route is more difficult for migrants, it is more lucrative for the smugglers. "The smugglers certainly celebrated," the police official said of the closure of the Balkan route. "We heard from people involved in this that they were pleased because they would be better able to work." Yet the police describe people smuggling operations as loose criminal networks that are different from the closed pyramid structures associated with the Italian or Russian mafias. While this makes the groups easier to infiltrate, it also means that when significant arrests are made other players can quickly adapt to fill the void. "We have observed that the networks, when they receive a major blow, they go quiet for a period of time. But we can't say they stop. They reorganize themselves, they start recruiting other players, and this has to do with the law of supply and demand. This phenomenon will not stop as long as there are people who want to migrate, who want to leave their countries, due to wars, due to poverty," the police official said. Terror threat The latter is a sentiment that is echoed by Angeliki Dimitriadi, a migration expert and Research Fellow with the think tank ELIAMEP in Athens. She argues that past experience dating back to the 1990s indicates that even supposedly successful efforts to seal Europe's external borders such as in the case of Spain usually only deflect the problem elsewhere. "The fact of the matter is there is going to be a way in, there is no way to create Fortress Europe that prevents entry 100 percent. It's not going to happen," she told DW. One way of addressing the rules of supply and demand would be to create legal routes, thereby removing the incentive for refugees to use illegal smuggling alternatives, according to Dimitriadi. The criminal activity may also be making Europe less safe. This is because the same underground networks funded largely by the movement of asylum seekers can also be exploited by criminal and terror groups. "That these networks are used to send some fighters, that has been proven recently with the events in Paris," the police official told DW. "To put it very plainly it is always safer if we know who's coming," Dimitriadi says. "In order to know who's coming, it always better if we can 'choose' also who that person will be. Why not make it legal? We can choose that. We can know who is coming. It will be safer for us and beneficial for them. It is a win win." However, with Europe showing little appetite for the creation of new legal migration routes, the cat and mouse game between police and smugglers on Greece's borders looks set to continue, with increasingly desperate migrants caught in the middle. *Name has been changed.

After a period of quiet following the closure of the Balkan route, people smugglers have returned to northern Greece and profits continue to roll in. Pavlos Zafiropoulos reports from Thessaloniki. In a small kebab shop across the broad avenue that runs in front of the Thessaloniki train station, clusters of migrants drink tea and huddle around electrical outlets charging their ... Read More »

Slovenians’ faith in a fence

Last fall images from a Slovenian village were broadcast around the globe. Every day, thousands of refugees arrived. The situation is now calm, but locals fear it could happen again, reports Leon Stebe from Rigonce. As I walk along the razor wire fence, it is peaceful on the meadows outside Rigonce, a Slovenian village on the border to Croatia. The fields are verdant green, and there is not a person in sight. A year ago things were completely different, says Zvone Pavlin, one of Rigonce's 130 residents: "67,000 refugees came through Rigonce in one month. One Sunday alone, about 15,000 people came through. I'm telling you, it was another world. It was unbelievable." Last year, images of Rigonce were broadcast around the world. The Slovenian village, its residents, the entire country was overwhelmed by the situation: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had closed his country's borders and refugees trying to get to northern Europe took a detour through Slovenia - and landed in Rigonce, on the Croatian border. It happened as if overnight, says Rigonce resident Branko Bresevc: "I could have never imagined it, we were totally surprised that it happened - here of all places. And we were astonished that the authorities were so unprepared." Roughing it The situation was chaotic. Refugees had no choice but to sleep in the fields, in the mud. It was not until Slovenian authorities began to take over logistics that things slowly, if somewhat clumsily, became more orderly. There was also a lot of criticism at the time about rumors that Slovenians were not treating refugees well. Zvone Pavlin vehemently denies the accusation. A farmer, he is visibly annoyed that I would even bring up the subject, telling me that people from the village brought water and food, brought bread to the refugees. The events left their mark, on the people and on the landscape. The razor wire fence that the Slovenian army later erected still separates people. But now it separates neighbors. Irena Rudman, deputy mayor of nearby Brezice says: "This is not the Europe that we wanted. A Europe without borders. Now the fence is here and totally overgrown. It is certainly not a good advertisement for tourism." No swimming The Sotla, a tiny river, quietly flows alongside the fence. Last year refugees crossed it. Now one cannot reach it - the razor wire fence blocks access. Children who once swam in the river can no longer do so. The fence constricts people, but it will remain in place - at least for the time being. No one has any intention of removing it. And farmer Zvone Pavlin thinks that is the right decision: "Look at what is going on in Turkey. What will happen if Europe keeps complaining to the Turks? Maybe Erdogan will let the refugees go. And then they may show up here again." Good fences, good neighbors His neighbor agrees, even if he doesn't like the sight of the fence. Branko Bresevc thinks that the fence will remain in place for years to come: "After the experience we had with refugees here in our village, saw just how quickly things can happen, and what we see going on in the world on the news - sadly, I have to say - we prefer to suffer the sight of the fence." The residents of Rigonce, the tiny little Slovenian border village, had to look on for months as refugees marched past their gardens, their farms and their fields as a result of global politics. These residents want to be prepared, and that is why they are choosing to keep faith in the fence. A fence they can close completely if they need to - to avoid a repeat of the scenes that played out here last October.

Last fall images from a Slovenian village were broadcast around the globe. Every day, thousands of refugees arrived. The situation is now calm, but locals fear it could happen again, reports Leon Stebe from Rigonce. As I walk along the razor wire fence, it is peaceful on the meadows outside Rigonce, a Slovenian village on the border to Croatia. The ... Read More »

Turkey needs more than the EU’s money

EU and Turkish leaders meet on Monday to discuss implementing a 3-billion-euro aid package intended to reduce the number of asylum seekers and economic migrants heading for Europe. Dalia Mortada reports from Istanbul. In a deal that Human Rights Watch has labeled as "a flawed and potentially dangerous policy response" to the influx of refugees, the European Union promised Turkey 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) back in November to go toward efforts that would keep refugees and other migrants in Turkey. Although the conditions are still vague, Turkey has said it would allocate the money in such a way that would both prevent refugees and migrants from taking illegal means to reach Europe as well as provide incentives to stay in Turkey. While Syrian refugees who are registered with the Turkish government have legal access to health care and education, only half of all Syrian kids in Turkey are going to Turkish schools. Turkey has promised to step up the integration of children in its school system. Until recently, refugees in Turkey had no legal right to work. A few weeks ago the government passed new conditions for Syrian refugees to obtain legal work permits, under certain circumstances. However, Zeynep Alemdar, professor of political science and international relations at Okan University in Istanbul, said that job regulations are too rigid. Only 3 percent of refugees, she told DW, could actually get jobs - there just wasn't access, "or where they're located, there aren't jobs." Even if some of the terms are still unclear, Turkish officials have concrete ideas where the money could flow. "[The money] will help with infrastructure - like water sanitation and sewage - in those areas very populated with Syrians, like [the southern border town of] Kilis, where more than half the population is Syrian," said a Turkish government official close to the issue, who spoke with DW on condition of anonymity. Asked how much had actually already been allocated, the answer was somewhat sobering: "The true answer would be 0," the official said, before going on to explain that none of the money had arrived because the joint EU-Turkey committee hadn't figured out how the money would actually be delivered - whether it would go directly to Turkey or via a third party, like the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). That said, the official was confident that some 250 million euros would arrive soon. "The point is the EU cannot send all the money right away." Just peanuts While the 3 billion euros is intended to be put to good use, "it's actually peanuts compared to what we have spent helping refugees," the official said. But the money, said Alemdar, is not what this deal is really about. "The real deal for Turkey would be the visa liberalization," Alemdar told DW - the promise of visa-free entry into the Schengen zone for Turkish citizens. In fact, talks on the EU-Turkey refugee deal are hinging on simultaneous conversations that could jump-start a better "harmonization" of relations between the EU and Turkey. "Many meetings are ongoing on different issues," explained the government official. "Therefore visa liberalization, accession negotiations, high level dialogues on energy and customs unions - they're all part of [this process]," he added. Meanwhile, some 12,000 migrants have amassed at the Greek-Macedonian border, sleeping in makeshift tent cities, braving the cold late-winter temperatures in the hope that officials will unlock the fences currently preventing people from making their way to Western Europe. Thousands more are stranded in Athens and the Greek islands. Most are asylum seekers from Turkey's southern neighbors, Syria and Iraq, as well as refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and some African nations. The majority crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey. 'Not good justice' The fear among many of those stuck in Greece, especially as Turkey and the EU negotiate the readmission of certain migrants to Turkey, is that they'll be sent back to where they came from. "This is not in line with the Geneva Conventions," explained the government source. "It's not good justice, I would say, as [the EU] wants somehow for Turkey to accept Syrian refugees [trying to reach Europe], but since they are fleeing war that would be violating international humanitarian law," he added. Many have criticized the deal for considering Turkey a "safe" country for those fleeing war. "It is naked self-interest and wishful thinking to say Turkey is a safe country of asylum - it is not, and this deal could cause much more harm than good," acting deputy Europe director of Human Rights Watch, Judith Sunderland, told DW. A report issued by the organization states that Turkey "does not provide effective protection for refugees and has repeatedly pushed asylum seekers back to Syria," violating the 1951 Refugee Convention. Indeed, with incidents that involve targeted attacks on Syrian asylum seekers residing in Turkey, many agree it does not meet "safe country" requirements. Just before the new year, Syrian journalist and filmmaker Naji Jerf, known for exposing "Islamic State" (IS) atrocities in the Syrian town of Raqqa, was assassinated in the Turkish border city of Gaziantep. This came just a couple months after two anti-IS Syrian activists, Ibrahim Abd al-Qader and Fares Hamadi, were beheaded in the nearby Turkish town of Sanliurfa. That said, those trying to reach Europe for other reasons can be deported. "Two days ago we accepted 308 applications from Greece," the Turkish government official explained. Those being returned to Turkey came mostly from North African countries. More than 1 million migrants crossed into Europe in 2015, and 130,000 have journeyed so far in 2016. Europe has labeled the recent mass migration a "crisis." But Alemdar said that the term could be an exaggeration. "Naming this a crisis while only two out of 1,000 - 0.2 percent - of people in Europe are refugees, whereas 3.3 percent of people in Turkey are refugees, is a comparison we should keep in mind," she said. "The EU should be more honest itself in terms of calling this a crisis and finding better ways to deal with it than throwing some money at Turkey"

EU and Turkish leaders meet on Monday to discuss implementing a 3-billion-euro aid package intended to reduce the number of asylum seekers and economic migrants heading for Europe. Dalia Mortada reports from Istanbul. In a deal that Human Rights Watch has labeled as “a flawed and potentially dangerous policy response” to the influx of refugees, the European Union promised Turkey ... Read More »

Greek PM Tsipras threatens to block EU refugee decisions if left alone in crisis

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras has said he will block all EU migrant decisions if his country has to deal with the crisis alone. His comments come as Austria and West Balkan states decide to tighten their borders to migrants. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said he will block all decisions at an upcoming EU migration summit if his country has to deal with the refugee crisis alone. Tsipras said that from now on Greece "will not assent to agreements" unless all its EU partners are forced to participate in the relocation and resettlement of refugees. "Greece will not agree to deals [in the EU] if a mandatory allocation of burdens and responsibilities among member countries is not secured," he added. "We will not accept turning the country into a permanent warehouse of souls with Europe continuing to function as if nothing is happening," Tsipras told the Greek parliament on Wednesday. Hundreds of Afghans are currently stranded in Greece after Macedonia decided to close its borders to refugees earlier this week. Tsipras said it was unfair that EU partners had dumped the burden of the migrants on Greece, a country already reeling from an economic crisis. "We did and will continue to do everything we can to provide warmth, essential help and security to uprooted, hounded people," he said, adding that Athens would not accept a situation where EU member states could do as they pleased. 'We will not tolerate fences and walls' The Greek prime minister's comments came as Austria and nine other countries met for a West Balkan conference on Wednesday, after individually deciding to restrict the flow of refugees into their countries. Neither Greece nor Germany was invited to the summit. "We will not tolerate that a number of countries will be building fences and walls at the borders without accepting even a single refugee" Tsipras said, adding that his country would demand the mandatory participation of EU countries in the relocation of refugees. Tsipras also said he would meet leaders from Greece's political parties to discuss tackling the number of migrants stranded in the country. EU leaders are scheduled to meet next week to fix plans on resolving the crisis. Earlier Wednesday, Tsipras also spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and agreed on a stronger crackdown on human smugglers in the Aegean Sea to reduce the migrant flow.

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras has said he will block all EU migrant decisions if his country has to deal with the crisis alone. His comments come as Austria and West Balkan states decide to tighten their borders to migrants. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said he will block all decisions at an upcoming EU migration summit if his country ... Read More »

Croatia-Serbia border row escalates

The crisis caused by the flow of refugees through the Balkans is turning into a trade war between Croatia and Serbia. The two countries have upped border restrictions amid mutual accusations. In a tit-for-tat escalation of border controls at the EU border, Croatia said on Thursday that it will ban Serbian licensed cars from entering the country. The move comes after Serbia announced on Thursday morning it will impose an embargo on all cargo and goods coming from Croatia. Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic rebuffed earlier reports claiming that Croatia would also ban Serbian citizens from entering the country. However, there were reports some Serbian passport holders were turned back at the border over technical issues. Serbia's embargo on Croatian goods came in response to Croatia having closed seven of eight border crossings and banned all trucks but those carrying perishable goods from entering the country in order to pressure Belgrade to redirect refugees towards Hungary and Romania. Croatia is a major gateway for goods from the EU entering Serbia. Croatia has been overwhelmed by refugees making their way from the conflict torn Middle East and Africa through the Balkans on their way to richer countries in the EU. Nearly 40,000 refugees, mostly from Syria, have crossed into Croatia since last Tuesday after Hungary erected a fence along its border with Serbia. Croatia has accused Serbia of bussing migrants entering the country from Macedonia to Croatia. The crisis has also tested relations between Hungary and Croatia as well as the free movement of people within the Schengen zone. The refugee crisis has tested relations between Croatia, the newest EU member, and its longtime foe Serbia, which backed Serb rebels during Croatia's struggle for independence in the early 1990 Balkan wars. A vicious circle As the refugee crisis turns into a trade war, the Balkan states have issued mutual recriminations. Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said on Thursday after an EU summit to tackle the refugee issue that his country had intended to open up the border but "now we have to react to this." "There will be no war or violence, everything will be calm, but this is not normal behavior (by Serbia)," he said. Meanwhile, Serbia's Foreign Ministry likened Croatia's behavior to the Nazi puppet regime established during World War II. "In their discriminatory character, [the restrictions] can only be compared with measures taken in the past, during the fascist Independent Croatia," the Serbian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II has tested EU leaders, who gathered until the early hours of Thursday morning to discuss measures to strengthen border controls in the bloc. After a seven-hour marathon meeting the European Council pledged to "tackle the dramatic situation at our external borders and strengthen controls at those borders" by ramping up funding, staff and equipment for EU border and police agencies. The EU also announced it would mobilize an extra 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) for Syrian refugees in the Middle East.

The crisis caused by the flow of refugees through the Balkans is turning into a trade war between Croatia and Serbia. The two countries have upped border restrictions amid mutual accusations. In a tit-for-tat escalation of border controls at the EU border, Croatia said on Thursday that it will ban Serbian licensed cars from entering the country. The move comes ... Read More »

Hungary fires tear gas, water cannons to hold back refugees

Police in Hungary's Roszke border crossing have fired tear gas and water cannons to scatter asylum seekers wanting to cross over from Serbia. Budapest has closed down its borders to keep new arrivals out. Hundreds of riot police tried to repel migrants trying to break through a razor-wire fence from Serbia into Hungary on Wednesday. Budapest had meanwhile informed Serbia of temporarily closing the Roszke-Horgos border crossing for 30 days, Serbia's foreign ministry said in a statement. Roszke-Horgos is one of the main crossings between Serbia and Hungary, a member of the European Union and a signatory of the Schengen agreement, which allows for free movement without border checks. Hungary locked down the border on Tuesday to prevent people from crossing illegally. "The crowd on the Serbian side became aggressive and threw stones, bottles and sticks at police on the Hungarian side and crossed the barrier at the border," a police statement said. "The police is protecting the border of Hungary and the EU while respecting the law and the principle of proportionality," the statement added. There were also reports of helicopters flying overhead. However, a United Nations official at the scene, quoted by Reuters news agency, said it did not appear that the refugees had breached the barrier. Illegal immigrants arrested Budapest's police officers said they had arrested 519 refugees who tried to cross the border since the government enforced its new law that made it a crime to cross from Serbia anywhere other than at legal checkpoints. Forty-six criminal cases were registered and a man from Iraq was the first person found to be guilty of breaking the new law. The man was to be expelled from Hungary and would likely be sent back to Serbia. Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto denied that Hungary was being callous by closing borders, saying his country was "always in solidarity with the refugees" but that it "cannot accept economic migrants because we cannot bear the burden of that." Hungary has become the main point of entry into the European Union for people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa. More than 200,000 have entered the country this year. Many migrants are still trapped in Horgos and several are now trying to get into the EU via Croatia and make their way to Germany or other wealthy countries in Western Europe. Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has said Berlin was expecting applications from around 800,000 refugees this year.

Police in Hungary’s Roszke border crossing have fired tear gas and water cannons to scatter asylum seekers wanting to cross over from Serbia. Budapest has closed down its borders to keep new arrivals out. Hundreds of riot police tried to repel migrants trying to break through a razor-wire fence from Serbia into Hungary on Wednesday. Budapest had meanwhile informed Serbia ... Read More »

Refugees and Munich officials struggle with the crisis

The ordeal is far from over for migrants who have traveled perilous paths to reach Germany. And for Munich's officials who have been receiving tens of thousands of refugees this past week, the challenge has just begun. A train from Salzburg enters the central railway station in Munich on Sunday - one of the last to bring migrants fleeing the Middle East and Africa before Germany begins activating border checks at its frontier with Austria. Juan Hussein has just arrived by train to Munich. As with all other migrants, police round him with hundreds of other travelers. The group is then taken through a cordoned path to a medical check up center, which offers food and refreshments to the asylum seekers. The Kurdish Syrian and his friends are then given a document that serves as a ticket to get onto any train that will take them to Dortmund in western Germany. There, they will be housed in a shelter until local authorities figure out ways to employ them fruitfully. But for many of the young men arriving, a refugee home is an option without a future. "They are taking us to shelters," says Ali, a refugee from Bangladesh who is basically looking for a means of income so he can send money home to his family. "But I want to work and earn money," he adds. Ahmed, also an artist from Iraq, describes how "Islamic state" militants took over his city, Salaheddin. He has not been able to work since the fall of the Saddam Hussein government. All he wants is a job so he can bring over his family to Europe as soon as possible, but that may take a while, as EU members redefine the Dublin rules for granting asylum and Germany draws out a plan to rehabilitate the travelers. A challenge for Germany Every train from Salzburg and Hungary's capital, Budapest, has been bringing in a huge number of people. On Saturday, the count reached 12,200 and many were forced to spend the night in the open. Residents of the Bavarian capital have been ready with help, bringing hot drinks, sleeping bags, rugs and clothes for the refugees. Karl-Heinz, a pensioner who is almost 70 years old, says he is not very rich, but feels "it is necessary to help people in need." His sense of duty prompted him to come all the way from his home in Dachau to witness the scenes in Munich and help these people. However, the big numbers of refugees pouring in with every train coming from Salzburg frighten him. "We will soon have the Oktoberfest and if our police officers are busy with refugees, security may be compromised at that event," he says. Munich may be temporarily relieved after Chancellor Merkel's administration decided to close borders with Austria until the flow of refugees had ebbed, but the challenges of integrating the migrants into Germany's society are set to continue in the long term.

The ordeal is far from over for migrants who have traveled perilous paths to reach Germany. And for Munich’s officials who have been receiving tens of thousands of refugees this past week, the challenge has just begun. A train from Salzburg enters the central railway station in Munich on Sunday – one of the last to bring migrants fleeing the ... Read More »

Austrian police free Afghan migrants sealed inside back of truck

Police in Vienna have found two dozen young Afghan refugees locked in the back of a truck in Vienna. The men had been hiding in an air-tight compartment and risked suffocation, authorities said. Austrian police discovered two dozen Afghans in the cargo hold of a truck stopped in Vienna, authorities said late Tuesday. The truck is believed to have come from Hungary. According to police reports, the Romanian driver fled as police officers approached but was later apprehended. In the rear cargo hold, 24 young men aged 16 to 20 had been "stuffed" in an area of 3.35 x 1.75 x 1.8 meters (10.9 x 5.7 x 5.9 feet). The sliding side door of the truck had been welded shut, and the tailgate had been locked, leaving the men in a "very dangerous" situation, police said. "It was like a rolling prison cell ... they were crammed in, sitting and standing on top of each other," Thomas Keiblinger, a spokesman for the police in Vienna told the Reuters news agency. "They would not have made it too much further." The young men appeared to have only traveled a short distance and were in good health but might not have been able to extricate themselves had police not intervened, officials said. The discovery comes just days after 71 refugees - believed to have been Syrians - were found suffocated to death in the back of an abandoned poultry truck in Austria. Police have since stepped up patrols and spot checks, especially on routes from neighboring Hungary. This comes as an unprecedented influx of refugees stream into Austria and Germany. Most are fleeing war-torn Syria, Afghanistan and poverty in African states and have reached Europe via Turkey and the Balkans.

Police in Vienna have found two dozen young Afghan refugees locked in the back of a truck in Vienna. The men had been hiding in an air-tight compartment and risked suffocation, authorities said. Austrian police discovered two dozen Afghans in the cargo hold of a truck stopped in Vienna, authorities said late Tuesday. The truck is believed to have come ... Read More »

Austria stops train carrying hundreds of refugees amid border check clampdown

Austrian officials have stopped a Munich-bound train close to its Hungarian border. Hungarian authorities allowed the refugees to board in Budapest, despite many not having the required visas to travel in the EU. A police spokesman in Vienna said around 300 to 400 refugees were transferred to a regional train, heading for the Austrian capital Vienna. Many of those on board were among roughly 2,000 refugees who had been stranded in Budapest for days. There were scenes of confusion on the platforms at Budapest train station earlier on Wednesday as hundreds of migrants, many of whom had fled from Syria, rushed to board the Munich-bound train. Hungarian authorities had initially refused to let the train leave due to overcrowding and a lack of legal tickets from many of the passengers. Authorities in Vienna are now checking whether the refugees on board had already applied for asylum in Hungary. Migrants found to have already registered at a refugee processing center in Hungary would be returened to Budapest, the spokesman said. Austrian Railways ÖBB added that people on the train who had not already applied for asylum in Hungary would be able to stay in Austria for up to two weeks while they decide whether to seek asylum. After a fortnight, authorities would then have the power to return the refugees to their last transit country. Increased vehicle checks Amid the refugee crisis, Austrian, Hungarian, Slovakian and German authorites were working together on Monday to stop vehicles on highways close to the countries' border regions. The stringent checks, which hope to catch more people traffickers, come less than a week after 71 people were found dead in a Slovakian poultry van on the highway in eastern Austria. Officials said on Monday that more than 200 migrants and five suspected smugglers had been picked up, less than 24 hours since the measures were implemented. Huge traffic jams stretching some 50 kilometers (30 miles) built up along the border between Austria and Hungary throughout the day as the checks got under way.

Austrian officials have stopped a Munich-bound train close to its Hungarian border. Hungarian authorities allowed the refugees to board in Budapest, despite many not having the required visas to travel in the EU. A police spokesman in Vienna said around 300 to 400 refugees were transferred to a regional train, heading for the Austrian capital Vienna. Many of those on ... Read More »

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