Austria Closes Borders As Refugee Crisis Deepens

     (CN) – Following Germany’s lead, Austria said Tuesday it would temporarily institute border controls to stem the flow of Syrian refugees coming into the EU through Hungary.
     The European Commission said Austria’s decision – which takes effect on Wednesday – appears to fall within the “exceptional possibility” clause of the Schengen Borders Code implementing the 1995 Schengen Agreement that broke down borders across much of the European Union.
     Earlier this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel informed the commission that her nation would raise border controls – particularly at the German-Austrian border – to manage the refugee crisis.
     The move effectively forced Austria to do the same, especially at its border with Hungary. Meanwhile, Hungary has also closed its borders and declared a state of emergency while it finishes a 109-mile razor wire fence at its border with Serbia.
     More than 200,000 refugees – most of them escaping the Syrian civil war and ISIL – have flooded into Hungary already this year. Officials there said they are not obligated under EU law to give asylum to any of the refugees since they entered Europe through Serbia.
     But Serbian officials said they will not accept any refugees that have set foot on Hungarian soil and were turned away.
     The latest unraveling of the vision of a borderless Europe comes amid talks by the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs Council – made up of Schengen Area delegates – over how to handle the refugee crisis. While the member states agreed to immediately begin relocating 40,000 of the first refugees and most agreed to look at relocating another 120,000 from the entry points of Hungary, Greece and Italy, they have so far rejected a quota system to distribute the refugees throughout the EU based on each nation’s capacity to handle the influx.
     Leaders did agree to “significantly and immediately” increase EU funding to Syria and its neighboring countries.
     “There is no solution to the refugee crisis without dealing with its root causes,” the commission said in a statement. But the administrative arm of the EU also cautioned member states that closing borders in what should be a border-free Europe is not a long-term solution.
     “The European Union can only function if everyone plays by the rules,” the commission said. “The Schengen system and all its benefits can only be preserved if EU member states work together swiftly, responsibly and with solidarity in managing the refugee crisis. We must keep the borders between EU member states open, but at the same time we also need stronger joint efforts to secure our external borders.”

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