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Refugees arrive in Austria, final destination unknown

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This image, taken in Vienna, Austria, on August 31, 2015, shows protesters holding a banner during a rally against the ill-treatment of refugees.

Hundreds of asylum-seekers have arrived in the Austrian capital amid deliberations by European leaders over how to handle the unprecedented refugee crisis in Europe.

Police on Monday watched as the asylum-seekers who were packed in trains pulled into Vienna’s Westbahnhof station late in the evening before boarding on trains headed to the Austrian city of Salzburg or to Munich in southern Germany.

The Austrian government had confined these refugees for days in dire conditions in camps awaiting permission to board trains for their ultimate destinations in northern Europe.

European confinement camps

Amnesty International said in a report issued in mid-August that conditions at Austria’s main refugee camp, Traiskirchen site, were “disgraceful” and “inhumane.”

“Overcrowding, insufficient medical and social care, avoidable administrative hurdles, delays in transfers to other centers and a particularly precarious situation facing children and adolescents who have come to Austria as unaccompanied children,” the rights group said.

War and persecution in the Middle East and Africa, aggravated by poverty in the conflict-stricken region, has set off the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

The 28-member European Union (EU) is divided on what to do with the huge influx of the refugees, with Western European leaders calling for more efforts to help with the new arrivals as countries on the eastern borders say they are struggling under the crisis.

“What we must do – and the (European) Commission has done it – is to organize our system in order to face this problem in a decent, civilized and European way,” EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told a press conference on Friday.

A video grab made from footage taken on May 5, 2015 shows French police arresting asylum-seekers hidden in a truck, near the northern French city of Calais. (Photo by AFP)


French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has criticized the EU member states for not shouldering responsibility.

“Too many countries are refusing to play their part… and we can’t accept it,” the French premier said in an address to the press on Monday.

From East to West: A path paved with hurdles

Most of the refugees land in Italy or Greece, and then head for the wealthier countries of northern Europe by transiting through countries in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, like Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary.

Hungary, which has seen 50,000 new arrivals this month, has built a razor wire fence along its border with Serbia to try to keep the refugees out, and is planning a four-meter (13 feet) fence to be policed by border guards and sniffer dogs.

The strict measures have led to more sophisticated human trafficking methods. Last week, the decomposing bodies of 71 people, including four children, possibly a group of refugees from Syria, were found in an abandoned truck in Austria’s Burgenland State, near the border with Hungary.

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