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No common ground in refugee crisis

September 4, 2015

Tensions between European countries are rising as the continent grapples with an unprecedented refugee crisis. The issue tops the agenda on Friday with Germany pushing for the controversial concept of quotas again.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa/H.P. Oczeret

Representatives of EU countries are looking to find a solution to rehabilitate hundreds of thousands of migrants who are making it to Europe, but a consensus seems elusive.

On Friday, Hungary will meet with other members of the Visegrad group, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland to discuss the crisis and coordinate the group's position with the EU.

The conference in Prague will focus on the thousands of migrants stranded in Hungary's capital, Budapest, since the beginning of this week.

Thousands of refugees remained stranded in Budapest after Hungary refused to allow them to cross the border to Austria or Germany. The country was also hastily constructing a razorwire fence on its border to Serbia and warned it would send 3,500 soldiers to keep migrants off its territory.

The Czech Republic, which insisted the EU had to distinguish between economic migrants and refugees fleeing conflict, and Slovakia, which was rejecting people from Muslim countries, were to talk to Poland and coordinate their positions with the EU.

The Visegrad group's meeting will coincide with an informal conference of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Friday. EU leaders are expected to discuss refugees' countries of origin and transit. The discussion could initiate a change in the Dublin rules, which stipulate that a refugee register in the country of entry into the European Union.

EU officials are also expected to speak in Greece's island Kos that has been inundated by refugees and migrants in the past weeks. The European Commission's Vice President Frans Timmermans described the situation as an "unprecedented humanitarian and political crisis."

Griechenland Kos Flüchtlinge
The Greek island of Kos is struggling with a major influx of refugeesImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Odysseus

Officials in Austria are meanwhile preparing to reveal autopsy results of 71 migrants who were found dead in an abandoned truck near Vienna last week. The incident sparked revulsion across Europe, prompting leaders to crackdown on human smugglers.

Britain may accept Syrian refugees

The urgency to tackle the crisis was heightened after pictures of a boy who died trying to cross the Aegean Sea were widely publicized in the media. Amid growing pressure at home, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "deeply moved" by the images of the three-year-old.

British media reported that Cameron was preparing to respond to the demands of accepting more migrants by picking them up directly from UN camps in Syria. However, he did not divulge any specific plans.

Cameron's statements came a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande agreed on a proposal to impose binding quotas on the number of refugees taken in by each EU member state. Berlin expects 800,000 applications for asylum this year. Most refugees include peopel fleeing conflict in the Middle East and African countries.

mg/ rg (AFP, dpa, Reuters)