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Denmark shuts rail link as Europe wrangles over refugees

Train track. Image source bluebell-railway

Train track. Image source bluebell-railway

Denmark became the latest flashpoint Thursday in Europe’s migrant crisis, with the continent bitterly spit over how to cope with the vast numbers of refugees pouring across its borders.

German generosity has sparked an angry backlash from its eastern neighbours, as another 3,000 migrants crossed the Austrian border from Hungary during the night, and more landed on Greece’s overwhelmed Aegean islands and trudged into Macedonia.

Scandinavia’s busiest ferry crossing to Germany remained shut to trains after a sudden surge of migrants trying to reach Sweden on Wednesday led Denmark to suspend cross-border trains and close a motorway for several hours.

Germany is pushing hard for the EU go further than a new plan to accept 160,000 refugees fleeing war in Syria and Iraq as it revealed Thursday that it had already taken in 450,000 since January.

Instead Berlin wants compulsory long-term EU quotas with no limits on numbers.

But binding quotas are already facing fierce resistence, with hardline Hungary ready to send troops to its border and Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico warning Wednesday his country would not bow to Berlin.

“I don’t want to wake up one day and have 50,000 people here about whom we know nothing,” he said as European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker urged the continent to look to its history and ignore populist scaremongering.

“Now is not the time to take fright, it is time for bold, determined action for the European Union,” he told the European Parliament as he unveiled the quota plan on Wednesday.

With Europe strained and divided by the biggest refugee crisis it has faced since World War II, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was considering resettling more Syrian refugees.

“We are looking hard at the number that we can specifically manage with respect to the crisis in Syria and Europe.”

– Stuck in no-man’s land –

Denmark’s train operator said Thursday its rail services across the German border would resume after they were shut by a standoff between around 350 migrants and police that also closed the main motorway between the two countries for a time on Wednesday.

But the ferry crossing at Rodby — one of the busiest in Scandinavia — would remain closed to trains, the authorities said.

The move came a day after hundreds of migrants refused to disembark from services arriving from Germany and register in Denmark, demanding instead to continue to Sweden, which has a more welcoming asylum policy. Around 100 later agreed to remain in Denmark while the rest were allowed to leave.

On Hungary’s tense border with Serbia, scores of families were stuck in no-man’s a day after 400 desperate migrants broke through police lines at the flashpoint town of Roszke yelling “No camp!” as they scattered in all directions.

And on the Greek island of Lesbos, where up to 20,000 were stranded earlier in the week, more migrants landed on the beaches on rickety boats from Turkey, shouting with joying and kissing the sand as they arrived on dry land.

– ‘Is this the EU?’ –

“Is this the European Union?” one passenger asks anxiously as he landed on Skala Sikamineas beach.

“As soon as I put my feet down I stopped feeling tired,” said Feras Tahan, a 34-year-old Syrian graphic designer, unaware he was facing a 50-kilometre (30-mile) walk in the heat across the island to be processed by the authorities.

The migrants’ plight has touched hearts around the world, spurred especially by pictures last week of three-year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi, whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach.

“The wave of migration is not a one-time incident but the beginning of a real exodus, which means that we will have to deal with this problem for many years to come,” EU President Donald Tusk warned on Tuesday.

As the international community grappled for a solution to the crisis, Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg proposed hosting a donors’ conference to help the millions of Syrians displaced by war.

The EU quota plans must be approved by a majority of EU states, and Berlin said it was open to a special EU refugee summit ahead of the next scheduled EU summit on October 14.

Juncker’s proposals also include a possible revision of the EU’s Dublin Treaty, under which asylum claims must be processed by the first country that refugees arrive in, and he also urged for them to be allowed to work while their claims are dealt with.



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