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EU ministers to meet on migrant crisis as drowned boy's father speaks

Update: September, 04/2015 - 11:22

BRUSSELSEuropean Union foreign ministers were set to meet on Friday to discuss the continent's escalating migrant crisis, after the father of a Syrian toddler found dead on a beach spoke of how his children "slipped through my hands" as their boat sank.

The heartbreaking images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying dead in the surf have ramped up pressure on political leaders to address Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II.

As politicians squabbled over how many refugees each country should take, an ugly standoff in Hungary underscored the plight of desperate people fleeing conflict in Syria.

In the town of Biscke, police halted a train carrying hundreds of refugees hoping to get to the Austrian border.

An estimated 200 to 300 people refused to get onto buses that state news agency MTI reported would take them to a nearby processing camp.

Furious at their treatment and feeling they had been tricked onto the train, they began chanting "Germany! Germany!"their intended destination after a treacherous journey of hundreds of kilometres (miles).

Others held placards with the words "SOS" and "Help!."

"I need to go to Germany for life," read another, held by a child. Police handed out water bottles but some of the migrants poured the water onto the ground in disgust.

Binding quotas

With tensions growing in Europe over how to handle the spiralling crisis, France and Germany said they had agreed the EU should now require member states to take in a minimum number of migrants.

"We agree that... we need binding quotas within the European Union to share the burden. That is the principle of solidarity," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters during a visit to the Swiss capital.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will next week unveil a plan for the relocation of at least 120,000 more refugees to ease the burden on frontline EU nations Greece, Italy and Hungary, said a European source.

EU president Donald Tusk also called on member states to share the resettlement of at least 100,000 refugeesfar above the current agreement for 32,000.

Foreign ministers from the European Union are scheduled to meet later on Friday to discuss the issue.

In Britain, newspapers reported Prime Minister David Cameron was preparing to respond to growing pressure to accept a bigger share of refugees, by accepting thousands directly from UN camps on the border with Syria.

"Final details of the numbers, funding and planned location are being urgently thrashed out in Whitehall," the Guardian cited government sources as saying.

Cameron earlier promised the country would fulfil its "moral responsibilities," after having only accepted 216 Syrian refugees over the past year. He said the numbers allowed would be kept "under review."

The human cost of the migrant crisis has been brought into sharp focus by the drowning of little Aylan.

His father Abdullah Kurdi on Thursday told of the horrific moments when the family of four was tipped into the Mediterranean off Turkey's coast.

"I was holding my wife's hand. But my children slipped through my hands. We tried to cling to the small boat, but it was deflating. It was dark and everyone was screaming," he told Turkey's Dogan news agency.

Reports said the childone of at least 12 Syrians who died when their boats sank trying to reach Greeceand his family were trying to get to Canada from the Syrian flashpoint of Kobane after fleeing to Turkey last year to escape Islamic State extremists.

Canada denied it had received an asylum request from the boy's family.

The picture of Aylan's lifeless body, face-down on the sand sent shock waves across social media and dominated front pages around the world. — AFP



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