Free Press Journal

Calls for action on migrant crisis after Austrian tragedy


austria refugee

Calls multiplied on Sunday for Europefinally to get to grips with its ever-deadlier migrant crisis after Austria’s horrific truck tragedy, as people continued to pour into Hungary from Serbia despite a newly completed razor-wire barrier.

Hungarian police said a fifth suspected human trafficker had been arrested over Thursday’s gruesome discovery of 71 decomposing corpses in an abandoned truck on an Austrian motorway. Three children saved from another vehicle meanwhile left hospital.

Pope Francis on Sunday called for “effective cooperation” against “crimes that offend all humanity”. The truck tragedy, plus yet another Mediterranean shipwreck claiming at least 111 lives, have served as chilling reminders of Europe’s failure to cope with the influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants.

The United Nations estimates 300,000 people have fled conflict and hardship in theMiddle East and Africa for a better life in Europe this year alone. Millions more sit in camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

Some 2,500 have died in the treacherous journey, most drowning in the waters of the Mediterranean after being crammed into unseaworthy boats. “Europe needs to stop being moved and start moving,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said, calling again for a fairer distribution of migrants among the European Union’s 28 members.

Germany, France and Britain made a joint call for an urgent meeting of EU interior and justice ministers in the next two weeks to take “immediate action” and find “concrete steps”. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that people “fleeing war, persecution, torture, oppression, must be welcomed” and should be treated with “dignity”.

And French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius slammed as “scandalous” the attitude of certain EU members in eastern Europe in refusing to accept more migrants. If the migrants manage to reach Greece, large numbers then trek up through the countries of the western Balkans — Macedonia called a state of emergency two weeks ago — and enter EU member Hungary.

From Hungary most want to travel onwards to prosperous western Europe, particularlyGermany and Sweden. Hungary has responded by completing on Saturday a barrier of three rolls of NATO-standard razor wire along the entire 175-kilometre border with Serbia, patrolled by border police with dogs and 4x4s.

Right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government is also building a four-metre-high fence and wants to stiffen penalties for people entering illegally. The barrier is not proving much use, however, with police saying on Sunday that 3.080 migrants crossed over on Saturday, the second-highest daily total. The barrier is littered with pieces of torn clothing.