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EU refugee crisis nears tipping point

7 September 2015 16:26


Tens of thousands of refugees, fleeing war and persecution in their homelands, have flooded Germany and Austria over the weekend after being stranded in Hungary for days.

The recent influx of refugees from across the Middle East and Africa to Europe has forced some European countries to reconsider their immigration policies.

Since the beginning of the war in Syria more than four years ago, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan have received the vast majority of over 4 million Syrian refugees.

“After absorbing more than 12,000 refugees, Austria wants to see a gradual reduction in the numbers of refugees coming through”, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said on Sunday.

“We have always said this is an emergency situation, which we have to handle quickly and humanely,” he added. “We have helped more than 12,000 people in an acute situation. We must now step by step go from emergency measures to a normality that is humane and complies with the law.”

Some 5,000 migrants arrived on Sunday at the train station in Munich, according to German police. The country’s interior ministry said around 8,000 arrived in southern Germany the day before. The government has said it will accept 800,000 applications for asylum.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told his European counterparts that Germany’s acceptance of refugees fleeing conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan must not be the practice in the coming days, according to the website of the German newspaper ‘Die Zeit’.

Austria, a destination for asylum seekers, welcomed some 12,000 migrants on Sunday amid applause, cheers and pats on the back from the eager nationals.

Pope Francis has also urged Catholic institutions throughout Europe to show mercy to the flood of refugees arriving on their shores by offering them shelter.

“May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe host a family, starting from my diocese of Rome, the two parishes in the Vatican these days will welcome two families of refugees,” he said at the end of his Angelus prayers in Rome on Sunday.

Hungary’s right-wing government has erected a barbed-wire fence along its more than 160-kilometer border with Serbia to stop refugees from crossing. It is in Hungary that refugees say they endured the worst treatment.

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