European officials hold emergency session on escalating refugee crisis

Story highlights

  • EU ministers move toward deal on relocation of 120,000 refugees
  • Germany, Hungary, Austria impose border controls as crisis escalates
  • Germany might take in 1 million migrants this year, the vice chancellor says

Munich, Germany (CNN)It's not just migrants fleeing war and chaos in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere who want to put the world's growing refugee crisis behind them. European nations bearing the brunt of the influx are desperate for it to end as well.

As Germany, Austria and Hungary clamped down on border crossings, European Union interior and justice ministers met Monday in emergency session in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss the crisis, EU plans for refugee quotas and how to stem the tide of migrants striving for European destinations.
    Leaders announced after the meeting that they had showed a willingness to move toward an agreement on relocating another 120,000 refugees, on top of plans made in May to relocate 40,000 from Italy and Greece.
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    "It was too early for a decision to be taken today," Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, told reporters. "Nonetheless, a large majority of member states have committed to this principle of the additional relocation of a further 120,000 people who deserve international protection as part of these massive migratory flows."
    The European Commission released a statement after the meeting, calling for "more ambition."
    "We need to come to a more fundamental change of the current system to better combine responsibility, solidarity and effective management within a truly European Asylum and Migration Policy," it read. "The world is watching us. Now is the time for each and every one to take responsibility."
    Here's the latest on the emergency spreading across Europe:

    Germany

    Germany halts train traffic in Austria
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    Germany, which had committed to taking in 800,000 migrants this year, might have to take in 1 million, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Monday. Some 10,000 are pouring in each day, Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate said. Some 16,000 have flooded Munich alone in two days, according to German officials.
    With the relentless stream of migrants, Germany is implementing temporary border controls for "security reasons urgently necessary," the country's interior minister said.
    Officials suspended the region's normal open borders policy, checking identifications of people in cars coming across the border and making decisions about whether to allow in those with Syrian or Iraqi identifications. Officials also stopped train traffic from Austria for a time as well.
    "The goal of this measure is to restrict the present inflow of migrants into Germany and return again to an orderly process upon entry," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Sunday.
    Such actions are allowed temporarily under EU law based on "serious threat to public policy or internal security."

    Austria

    In Austria, an Interior Ministry spokesman said the country would introduce reinforced border controls as a consequence of Germany tightening its border enforcement. Many refugees bound for Germany pass through Austria.
    Officials also deployed 2,200 soldiers to help beleaguered police, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said. The troops will work on humanitarian aid, security and border protection, according to the spokesman.
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Austrian counterpart, Chancellor Werner Faymann, are scheduled to meet Tuesday in Berlin to discuss the crisis, the German government said.

    Hungary

    Tough new border laws were set to go into effect Tuesday along Hungary's border with Serbia, which is not part of the European open-borders agreement. The laws call for three years in prison for climbing the country's newly built razor-wire fence along the border. They also create new border transit zones to hold asylum-seekers while their applications are processed.
    Migrants in the transit centers won't be considered to have officially entered Hungary, according to a government statement.
    The changes will "result in asylum procedures which are swifter and more effective," the statement said.
    Close to 10,000 people crossed into Hungary on Monday, a single day peak, according to government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs. He said registration and entry to Hungary will only be possible at two assigned entry points.
    "We call this as a temporary fence, obviously it is rather a must decision than a nice decision," he said. "We don't like building fences, but up until we are able to reinstate border control on the natural border/green borders of the country, we have no other choice."
    Hungary has been the site of some of the most dramatic scenes of the crisis, with refugees setting out on foot from train stations and holding sites despite police efforts to contain them. Some migrants have complained about their treatment by Hungarian officials.

    Macedonia

    Refugees make the journey from Greece to Macedonia
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    A record number of migrants crossed into Macedonia over the weekend, said Alexandra Krause of the UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency.
    About 8,600 people crossed from Greece to Macedonia from Saturday until Sunday, Krause said from the border Monday.
    Many migrants are trying to make the arduous journey from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to Germany. To do so, they travel through Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Austria and then Germany.
    Defense Minister Zoran Jolevski visited a Macedonian army post along the country's southern border with Greece as well as a transit city where migrants are registered, calling for greater international support for European nations dealing with the crisis.

    Netherlands

    Authorities "intensified mobile border controls" monitoring the flow of traffic into the country but have not closed the country's borders, Edmond Messchaert, spokesman for the Netherlands' Ministry of Security and Justice, told CNN.

    Britain announces more help

    White House: U.S. to take at least 10,000 more refugees
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    The British government announced Monday it has appointed a minister to oversee the resettling of 20,000 Syrian refugees.
    "Richard Harrington will be responsible for coordinating and delivering work across Government to resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK, along with coordinating the provision of Government support to Syrian refugees in the region," the government said.
    The UK also announced it is increasing its aid for refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey to 1 billion pounds (about $1.5 billion).
    Forty million pounds will be allocated to the United Nations and nongovernmental organization partners working in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, including British aid agencies such as Save the Children, providing shelter, food, relief packages, health and protection services as well as cash assistance -- giving individuals the freedom to decide how best to cover their needs.

    Death toll rises

    A day after a migrant boat capsized off the Greek island of Farmakonisi, officials are finding more bodies.
    The death toll rose to 34, including 10 children, duty officer Vasiliki Patsioura of the Hellenic coast guard said.
    The coast guard said it rescued 99 people from the vessel that capsized in the Aegean Sea.
    At least 2,800 migrants have died or disappeared this year trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

    'Open your heart and help someone'

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    Some EU ministers questioned whether the quota system makes sense.
    "Quotas cannot be imposed on countries," Slovakian Interior Minister Robert Kalinak told CNN's Hala Gorani in Brussels. "Migrants want to move from one country to another. We should concentrate on camps instead and differentiate between illegal migrants and asylum-seekers."
    On Monday, the aunt of Aylan Kurdi, the toddler whose drowning death drew intensified world attention to the refugee crisis, spoke to a rally in Brussels urging action.
    Aylan's brother and mother also died trying to escape Syria.
    "It is too late for my family, for Aylan, but they need all your help," Fatima Kurdi said at a rally in Brussels, shortly before the EU ministers were due to meet on the crisis.
    "We need action -- a plan to make it happen urgently. And I hope you all understand it could happen to anyone's family. Open your heart and help someone."