European Union interior ministers will hold an 'extraordinary' emergency meeting on September 22 to discuss the migration crisis, after they failed to reach a deal on relocating thousands of refugees.
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Syrian refugee takes food from volunteers after arriving at the train station in Hegyeshalom, Hungary, near the border with Austria on Tuesday Sept. 15, 2015. Austria's Interior Ministry says temporary border controls with Hungary will be in effect immediately after midnight Tuesday. The ministry says the measure could be extended to the country's borders with Slovenia, Italy and Slovakia, if needed. That reflects the possibility that migrants now streaming into Austria from Hungary could instead try to cross into Austria over those borders in large numbers. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)[/caption]
Luxembourg, which currently holds the presidency of the EU, said the aim of the "extraordinary" meeting was to get ministers to approve plans for the redistribution of 120,000 refugees currently in Greece, Italy and Hungary.
"On this occasion, the presidency wants the Council to adopt a decision on a provisional mechanism for the relocation of 120,000 persons in need of international protection from member states exposed to massive migratory flows," the Luxembourg government said.
At an extraordinary meeting on Monday, opposition from eastern European nations scuppered efforts by the interior ministers to reach a unanimous deal on binding quotas for the relocation of refugees. Their failure led German Chancellor Angela Merkel to call earlier Tuesday for an emergency summit of EU leaders to be held next week.
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EU President Donald Tusk said he was consulting with other European leaders and would announce a decision on Thursday on whether to hold a special summit.
On Tuesday, Hungary sealed off its border with Serbia with massive coils of barbed wire Tuesday and began detaining migrants trying to use the country as a gateway to Western Europe, harsh new measures that left thousands of frustrated asylum-seekers piled up on the Serbian side of the border.
Human rights activists condemned the move, with Amnesty International saying Hungary's "intimidating show of militarized force is shocking." But Prime Minister Viktor Orban defended the measures, saying he was acting to preserve Christian Europe, which he said had become threatened by the large numbers of Muslims streaming into the continent.
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A Syrian child rests after arriving at the train station in Hegyeshalom, Hungary, near the border with Austria on Tuesday Sept. 15, 2015. Austria's Interior Ministry says temporary border controls with Hungary will be in effect immediately after midnight Tuesday. The ministry says the measure could be extended to the country's borders with Slovenia, Italy and Slovakia, if needed. That reflects the possibility that migrants now streaming into Austria from Hungary could instead try to cross into Austria over those borders in large numbers. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)[/caption]
"The supply is nearly endless — we can see how many of them are coming," Orban said in a televised address just before the new laws took effect at midnight. "And if we look at the demographics, we can see that these people have more children than our communities who lead a traditional, Christian way of life."
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"Mathematics tells you that this will lead to a Europe where our way of life will end up in a minority, or at least face a very serious challenge."
By nightfall Tuesday, thousands of migrants, including many babies and children, prepared to spend a night in the open or in flimsy tents erected in the bushes or on the main highway near the Serbian border with Hungary.
Men collected wood in a nearby forest for fires in preparation for a chilly night.
"I had hope until now, but it's all gone," lamented Mohammad Mahayni, a 32-year-old Syrian from Damascus, who became separated from his wife as they tried to enter Hungary a day earlier.
"I lifted the razor wire for her, she got in before a Hungarian border patrol came by," he said. "Now I don't know where she is."
The new laws make it a crime to breach or damage the 13-foot (4-meter) high razor-wire fence erected along 110 miles of Hungary's border with Serbia and include longer prison terms for convicted human traffickers. Authorities said they detained 174 people who tried to cross the border Tuesday. Hungary has said it will turn most of the migrants back to Serbia, which it considers a safe country where they could also request asylum.
The developments mark a dramatic reversal for Hungary, an East European nation that played a key role in cracking open the Iron Curtain in 1989 when it removed a border fence to Austria, prompting large numbers of East Germans to flee to the West.
At the European Parliament in Brussels, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker paid tribute Tuesday to Gyula Horn, the late Hungarian prime minister who dismantled that fence. He appeared at the unveiling of a bust of Horn, praising him as "a great Hungarian, a great person, a great European" — a clear gesture of reproach of Orban.
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Hungary also declared a state of emergency in two southern regions Tuesday, giving authorities greater powers to deal with the crisis and allowing them to shut down roads and speed up asylum court cases.