Migrants keep coming as Merkel tells EU to do more

Peter Murphy with Hui Min Neo in Berlin
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Hungarian police said 10,046 migrants, a new daily record, arrived on Wednesday from Croatia

Hungarian police said 10,046 migrants, a new daily record, arrived on Wednesday from Croatia (AFP Photo/)

Budapest (AFP) - Thousands of migrants streamed through the Balkans Thursday as German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned after an emergency summit that Europe still had to get to grips with its biggest post-war refugee crisis.

French officials meanwhile said a young African was killed by a Channel Tunnel train while trying to get to Britain, the latest of thousands of deaths this year of people desperate to start a new life in Europe.

Hungarian police announced 10,046 migrants, a new daily record, had arrived on Wednesday from Croatia, while Austrian authorities said on Thursday that 8,100 had entered from Hungary in the previous 36 hours.

But Budapest is planning to seal its border with Croatia as early as this weekend or the beginning of next week, according to government sources quoted by Hungarian news websites.

Migrants, many from war-torn Syria, are pouring through the Balkans on a zig-zag trek to northern Europe, particularly Germany, which they see as a beacon of stability and prosperity.

The previous record in Hungary was set on September 14, when 9,380 migrants crossed just before the country effectively sealed its border with Serbia with razor wire.

That closure -- and subsequent clashes with riot police on the border -- led thousands of migrants to enter Croatia, quickly overwhelming authorities who then started bussing them to the Hungarian frontier.

On Tuesday almost 9,000 migrants entered Croatia, also a new high. Over the last week, more than 44,000 refugees have entered the country from non-EU Serbia.

That influx has fuelled tensions between the two countries. In tit-for-tat moves overnight, Croatia and Serbia further restricted traffic at the last major crossing point still open between them, Tanjug news agency reported in Belgrade.


- Aid for Syria's neighbours -


EU leaders agreed at their summit early Thursday to boost aid for Syria's neighbours -- home to millions of refugees fleeing years of civil war and the ravages of Islamic State extremists -- to stop them coming to Europe.

The leaders agreed to mobilise an additional one billion euros ($1.12 billion) for the UN refugee agency and the World Food Programme (WFP), as well as more help for Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Balkan countries.

The run-up to the summit had seen major divisions open in the 28-nation bloc, especially between western and former communist eastern members.

But EU president Donald Tusk said he was sure the "risky blaming game" was over.

"Tonight we have a common understanding that we cannot continue like we did before," Tusk told a press conference.

Tusk said EU leaders also agreed to strengthen the bloc's outer frontiers, pointing to a "change in the way of thinking about our external borders".

He added they also agreed to set up controversial "hotspot" reception centres in frontline states -- probably in Greece and Italy -- to quickly sort people fleeing conflict from economic migrants.

On the eve of the summit, interior ministers decided to relocate 120,000 refugees, defying opposition from eastern states Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia.

The decision was approved by a majority of countries under the EU's system of votes, weighted according to the member.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said he would appeal to the EU's top court rather than accept the "diktat" from Brussels.

Hungary's hardline prime minister, Viktor Orban, hit out at Germany, saying there should be "no moral imperialism" when it came to European discussions on migrants.


- A whole nation expelled -


The relocations are just a fraction of the 500,000 migrants who have come to Europe's shores so far this year and the estimated four million camped on Syria's borders.

"I am deeply convinced that what Europe needs is not just selective relocation of this kind, but much more a durable process for fairly distributing refugees among member states," Merkel told parliament on Thursday.

"A first step has been taken, but we are still far from where we should be."

"Mass media keep promoting the refugees as poor people with sad faces, waiting for food and roofs to sleep under... This is much bigger than that," said Anas Maghrebi, singer of a Syrian rock group trying to make it to Germany and playing gigs on the way.

"What happened is Syria is much bigger ... It is about a whole nation, a cultural, civilised nation being expelled from the country," he said in Zagreb as the group played to around 300 people.

There was little time or enthusiasm for those on the road to celebrate the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, meanwhile.

"Since four years (when the Syrian civil war started) there was Eid. Now, there is no Eid. Because everything about Eid and related to Eid is difficult," one Syrian man told AFP on a packed train in Croatia.