Date
22 July 2017
Activists wear masks depicting EU leaders during a demonstration in Brussels. EU countries have reimposed border controls to stem an unprecedented refugee influx. Photo: Reuters
Activists wear masks depicting EU leaders during a demonstration in Brussels. EU countries have reimposed border controls to stem an unprecedented refugee influx. Photo: Reuters

No more travel-free Europe as nations fight off migrant influx

European countries are resuming border controls, undoing 20 years of unrestricted access, after an unprecedented influx of migrants on Monday broke the record for the most arrivals by land in a single day.

Germany’s triggered the move by restoring border checks on Sunday, prompting neighbors to follow suit, according to Reuters.

Hungary sealed the main informal border crossing point into the European Union.

A majority of EU interior ministers, meeting in Brussels, agreed in principle to share out 120,000 asylum seekers on top of some 40,000 distributed on a voluntary basis so far, officials said in Luxembourg, which holds the rotating EU presidency.

But details of the deal to be formalized on Oct. 8 were vague, with several former communist central European states still rejecting mandatory quotas.

Austria said it would dispatch its military to help police carry out checks at the border with Hungary after thousands of migrants crossed on foot overnight, filling up emergency accommodation nearby, including tents at the frontier.

Thousands more raced across the Balkans to enter Hungary before new rules take effect on Tuesday, which Budapest’s right-wing government says will bring a halt to the illegal flow of migrants across its territory.

On Monday, police said 7,437 migrants had been recorded entering Hungary from Serbia, beating the previous day’s record of 5,809.

Helmeted Hungarian police, some on horseback, closed off the main informal crossing point, backed by soldiers as a helicopter circled overhead.

A goods wagon covered with razor wire was moved into place to block a railway track used by migrants to enter the EU’s Schengen zone of border-free travel.

Hungary later declared the low-level airspace over its border fence closed but allowed a trickle of refugees to enter the country at an official crossing point.

As the shock waves rippled across Europe, Slovakia said it would impose controls on its borders with Hungary and Austria. The Netherlands announced it would make spot checks at its borders.

Other EU states from Sweden to Poland said they were monitoring the situation to decide whether controls were needed.

“If Germany carries out border controls, Austria must put strengthened border controls in place,” Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner told a joint news conference with Chancellor Werner Faymann. “We are doing that now.”

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CG/RA

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