EU prepares to meet as thousands of refugees remain stranded on borders
Hundreds of migrants struggle to board a train on the border between Serbia and Hungary on Sept. 11, 2015. (AFP/Joe Klamar)
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Thousands of refugees were stranded Sunday, many without shelter, on the roads and borders of Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary as EU leaders prepared to meet this week to decide their fates.
Their sheer numbers have proven overwhelming to EU border and security officials and politicians.
Attempts by Austrian police to deny entry to some migrants trying to cross its southern border with Slovenia proved ineffectual as they were grossly outnumbered.
"We could not hold them back because they came en masse," a police spokesman said of a group of 100 migrants in Spielfeld who had earlier been blocked because they neither had proper travel documents nor sought asylum.
A larger group of 350 people had forced their way in Saturday as they rushed past outnumbered Austrian officers.
Several hundred additional migrants were nearing the border and would likely try to enter Austria as well, the spokesman said.
In Hungary, several thousand migrants left the train station at Hegyeshalom to cross the border with Austria on foot after arriving there by train from Croatia. On the Austrian side, authorities said they were struggling to organize onward transportation for the 7,000 people who had amassed in the border town of Nickelsdorf.
Croatia, which has seen more than 21,000 arrivals since Wednesday, has admitted that the influx of people, most of whom are refugees from the Middle East, has surpassed its capacity to receive and register them.
Applying what Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said was "Plan B," Zagreb simply started shuttling the migrants to Hungary in the north and letting them pass to Slovenia in the west as they head towards Western Europe.
But even as people were being moved out of Tovarnik, a town on the border with Serbia, more arrived. After buses stopped making rounds towards Hungary at 3 am Sunday, many of the 2,000 migrants remaining in the village slept in the open, the Vecernji List newspaper said.
Thousands were also attempting to enter Slovenia, which had settled 1,650 people in reception centres by Saturday night. Hundreds were waiting to be allowed in from Croatia at border crossings near Brezice Sunday morning after spending the night there, the STA news agency said.
Europe is dealing with its greatest influx of migrants and asylum seekers since World War II as immigrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa try to reach Germany and other Western European countries.
Almost 450,000 people have reached Europe by sea this year while more than 2,900 have died trying, according to UN estimates. Others have gone overland.
A coordinated response to the crisis has yet to materialize as EU member states argue over who is to take in how many asylum seekers.
EU interior ministers are to try Tuesday to thrash out a compromise on a plan to redistribute 120,000 asylum seekers. A day later, EU leaders will convene for a crisis summit to tackle broader migration concerns.
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