Merkel slams anti-asy­lum seeker ac­tivists


Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel vowed Wed­nes­day there would be no tol­er­ance for “shame­ful and vile” anti-mi­grant vi­o­lence, fac­ing down a noisy far­right protest dur­ing a visit to a refugee cen­ter.

About 200 peo­ple massed in the eastern town of Hei­de­nau, some boo­ing and shout­ing “traitor, traitor” and “we are the mob” as she ar­rived at the shel­ter, in a show of de­fi­ance over a record in­flux of asy­lum seek­ers.

But fol­low­ing her visit, Merkel vowed: “There will be no tol­er­ance of those who ques­tion the dig­nity of other peo­ple.”

“The more peo­ple who make that clear ... the stronger we will be and the bet­ter we will be able to ad­dress this task” of car­ing for refugees.

The show­down in Ger­many came as chaotic scenes erupted at Hungary’s bor­der town of Roszke with po­lice fir­ing tear gas at mi­grants.

Po­lice had sought to stop around 200 peo­ple try­ing to leave the coun­try’s main refugee pro­cess­ing cen­ter there.

Bu­dapest said it would send in po­lice re­in­force­ments to stem a record in­flux of asy­lum-seek­ers, as more than 2,500 peo­ple crossed into the EU coun­try from its south­ern fron­tier with Ser­bia, days be­fore a vast ra­zor- wire bar­rier aimed at keep­ing out mi­grants is com­pleted.

Europe is strug­gling to cope with its big­gest mi­grant cri­sis since World War II — from thou­sands of refugees land­ing on the shores of Italy and Greece to the hun­dreds climb­ing onto trucks to get from France to the UK.

Ham­strung by a lack of a co­her­ent Euro­pean re­sponse to the cri­sis, gov­ern­ments have un­der­taken at times con­tra­dic­tory ap­proaches to the is­sue.

Hungary is build­ing a wall to keep mi­grants out, while the Czech Re­pub­lic’s Deputy Prime Min­is­ter An­drej Babis called for the visa-free Schen­gen zone be closed with NATO de­ploy­ment.

Ger­many, which is pre­par­ing to re­ceive a record 800,000 asy­lum­seek­ers this year, in­stead eased the asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tion pro­ce­dure for Syr­i­ans flee­ing a bru­tal civil war.

Natasha Ber­taud, spokes­woman for the EU Com­mis­sion, said Ber­lin’s move was “recog­ni­tion of the fact that we can­not leave the mem­ber states at the ex­ter­nal borders alone in deal­ing with a large num­ber of asy­lum seek­ers.”

Un­der the so- called Dublin rules, the first EU coun­try where an asy­lum seeker ar­rives is usu­ally re­quired to process the claimant’s ap­pli­ca­tion.

In prac­tice, this means coun­tries on the EU’s south­ern borders like Greece or Italy are over- whelmed with ap­pli­ca­tions.

But Ber­lin’s largesse was not al­ways wel­comed at home, par­tic­u­larly in the east where a spate of at­tacks has hit refugee cen­ters.

Pres­i­dent Joachim Gauck blasted a “dark Ger­many” be­hind the se­ries of xeno­pho­bic at­tacks, as Ger­man lead­ers went on the of­fen­sive to quell the wave of an­timi­grant vi­o­lence.

Hungary Sends in Po­lice

Hungary, another coun­try on the edge of the EU, is rush­ing to build a vast ra­zor-wire bar­rier to keep mi­grants out.

Po­lice fired tear gas at mi­grants at a refugee pro­cess­ing cen­ter in Roszke af­ter they tried to leave with­out be­ing fin­ger­printed.

Hungary’s po­lice chief said more than 2,100 po­lice called “bor­der hun­ters” would be de­ployed to the bor­der with Ser­bia from Sept. 5.

Rush­ing to get through be­fore Hungary seals its bor­der are Syr­i­ans, Afghans and Pak­ista­nis, in­clud­ing more than 500 chil­dren.

“We left be­cause we were scared, we had fear, bombs, war, killing, death ... That’s why we left Syria,” one Syr­ian man head­ing for the Hun­gar­ian bor­der told AFP.

“If I go to Europe, I think it’s go­ing to be bet­ter ... bet­ter than my life in Syria.”

Some of the refugees ar­riv­ing in Hungary count among the 7,000 whose gru­el­ing jour­ney to the EU was tem­po­rar­ily blocked last week when Mace­do­nia de­clared a state of emer­gency and shut its borders for three days to halt the huge in­flux.

The U.N. refugee agency has warned that the sit­u­a­tion was also wors­en­ing in Greece and Italy, where the num­ber of peo­ple ar­riv­ing af­ter cross­ing the Mediter­ranean this year is ap­proach­ing 300,000.

Since the be­gin­ning of 2015, more than 2,370 peo­ple have drowned in the Mediter­ranean, al­ready ex­ceed­ing the death toll for the whole of 2014, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion.

Floods and Um­brel­las

As crit­i­cism mounted on the EU for fail­ing to find a re­sponse to the cri­sis, Italy hit back at Ger­many and France over their claims that it was mov­ing too slowly on the press­ing is­sue.

“Italy is do­ing what it has to do ... and even much more by sav­ing thou­sands of lives and by tak­ing in refugees,” For­eign Min­is­ter Paolo Gen­tiloni told Cor­riere della Sera.

Merkel, at talks on Mon­day with French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande, warned that it would be in­tol­er­a­ble if reg­is­tra­tion cen­ters for newly ar­rived mi­grants in Italy and Greece were not op­er­a­tional by the end of the year.

“Ask­ing Greece and Italy to do their duty on immigration is like ask­ing a coun­try hit by floods to step up the pro­duc­tion of um­brel­las,” Gen­tiloni said.

Lead­ers from the western Balkans will at­tend a Vi­enna sum­mit on Thurs­day joined by Merkel, in a bid to find a co­her­ent ap­proach to deal with the cri­sis.

The western Balkans has now be­come one of the main routes into the EU.

About 4,000 mi­grants were massed at a camp in Pre­sevo in Ser­bia, wait­ing to be reg­is­tered be­fore they at­tempt to cross into Hungary and on­ward to more pros­per­ous EU coun­tries like Ger­many or Swe­den.


(Top) Peo­ple demon­strate against the visit of Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel to a refugee shel­ter that was at­tacked by far-right protesters over the week­end in Hei­de­nau, eastern Ger­many, Wed­nes­day, Aug. 26. The poster reads “Race Traitor.” (Above) Pres­i­dent Joachim Gauck vis­its an asy­lum seeker ac­com­mo­da­tion in Ber­lin-Wilmers­dorf and wel­comes refugees in Ber­lin, Ger­many, Wed­nes­day.

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