On Wednesday, European Union chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker told EU member states that they must share the burden, noting that Greece, Italy and Hungary — the main entry points for refugees, many of whom hope to travel towards richer countries in the mainland’s north and west — cannot cope with the numbers arriving on overcrowded, rickety ships.
Juncker cautioned that a compulsory quota system would have to be imposed, a response praised by some but strongly opposed by other EU nations, notably in the bloc’s east.
The European Parliament on Thursday backed Juncker’s to spread out 160,000 refugees across the other member states, but the support of the legislature had been expected and has little impact compared with the power of the member states, which also need to back the plan.
EU ministers will hold an extraordinary meeting on the issue next Monday but given the opposition of several eastern EU nations to mandatory quotas, it’s unclear what might be achieved absent a change in policies.
Romania's president on Thursday said there is “no way” his country will accept the extra number of refugees the European Commission has proposed. Romania has been asked to accept 6,351 people. Leaders say that's too much after they initially agreed to accept some 1,785.
President Klaus Iohannis said Romania would send its interior minister to a special meeting Monday in Brussels to discuss the issue.
“I had a discussion with him today and his mandate is to declare that there is no way Romania will agree to the obligatory quotas.”
Iohannis said the EU is seeking to distribute refugees in a bureaucratic way without consulting member states.
In Hungary, which has been criticized for its heavy-handed response to the refugee crisis, police are rejecting allegations that they mistreat refugees as a record high of more than 3,300 entered the country in just one day.
Police said Thursday around 1,000 officers were on duty on the border with Serbia, where 3,321 refugees had been detained Wednesday.
Allegations of heavy-handedness were also present further south. Macedonian police formed a human chain on its border with Greece to stem the numbers entering. Occasionally, they resorted to using batons and shields to push people back.
Parents held their children aloft in the rain, to make sure the Macedonian police would see them. Mud-splattered children dragged luggage and stumbled into rain-filled potholes, climbing out soaked and crying.
For some, the chaos, cold and rain were unbearable. One Iraqi man was asking anyone he could find how he could return home. He wanted to fly back to Iraq, he said, he couldn't bear the conditions any more to reach Europe.
Abas Jizi, a 30-year-old supermarket employee from Deir ez-Zor in Syria, huddled around a fire with his wife and three children at the Idomeni train station, cradling his 1-year-old son.
“I was hit by the police” in Lesbos, he said. “The situation was very bad. We waited for 10 days to get our papers. We got to Athens yesterday and we set off straight away for here.”
Whereas refugees on the Greek-Macedonian border are battling rain, on the Serb-Hungarian border the problem is the heat.
“They are blocked here, they are suffering in the heat, we see children all over the place collapsed in absolute exhaustion,” said Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch's emergencies director, of those refugees in the country.
“Hungary cannot cope with this influx of asylum seekers, they're not properly treating these people, and they either have to meet their international obligations and their obligations towards the EU or they have to let these people go to where they want to go, which certainly is not Hungary.”