By Katie Ellington, News Editor and Cynthis Moberly, News Writer
The European migration crisis continued to escalate last week as thousands of refugees and migrants crossed into Hungary and continued traveling west.
According to European Union regulations, refugees are usually required to seek asylum from the government of the first member nation they enter; however, those who have entered Hungary have generally been met with hostility and wish to travel west to Austria or Germany.
In accordance with the law, the Hungarian government announced last Tuesday that it would refuse to allow anyone to board trains crossing the border into Austria without passports and visas. Thursday, trains full of migrants headed to Austria and Germany stopped at a station in Budapest, where officials informed the passengers that the train would go no further. But this did not stop people from crossing the border. By Friday, thousands were making the journey on foot, walking along train rails or on the highway. The Hungarian government relented Friday evening and sent more than 100 buses to transport the refugees to the border, which Austria opened early Saturday morning. By Sunday, Hungary’s order requiring train passengers to provide proper documentation before crossing the border had been rescinded.
Between Saturday and Monday, over 16,000 migrants and refugees to crossed the border between Hungary and Austria. Most of them continued traveling west to Germany. Austria announced Sunday evening that it would gradually re-close its border, forcing the Hungarian government to handle further immigration on its own.
While the issue of immigration reached new extremes last week, it has been an ongoing problem. An infographic released by the International Organization for Migration on September 4 showed that over 350,000 people have migrated to Europe via the Mediterranean this year, while 67 percent of them have gone to Greece, whose economic woes take up most of the government’s attention. Many continue migrating north through Macedonia and Serbia to reach Hungary, according to BBC.
Some of these people are migrants seeking a better life because of a failing economy, but many of these people are refugees, fleeing a brutal Syrian civil war or the violent threat of persecution by ISIS.
Still thousands more have not survived the journey. People have traveled hundreds of miles in unsafe boats, crowded trains, buses or even on foot, often trusting human smugglers with their lives. Multiple boats have sank crossing the Mediterranean Sea, resulting in at least 2,800 deaths (and over 72 percent of total migrant deaths this year). Still others have died on land, including the 71 people who suffocated in an abandoned van last month.
According to the Wall Street Journal, EU home affairs officials will meet on September 14 to develop a plan for the redistribution of the refugees. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will again attempt to convince national governments that they “need to spread the burden of refugees more evenly across the bloc.”
On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would pledge 3 billion euros to the handling the migrant crisis, but asked other nations to begin accepting refugees. Germany is currently expecting 800,000 asylum requests this year.
French President Francois Hollande stated that the European Commission will propose a plan for the EU to redistribute 120,000 refugees over the next few years. France has agreed 24,000. Britain has committed to accepting 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years.