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EU attempts to resolve refugee quota dispute

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The European Union interior ministers are due to hold an emergency meeting, aiming to bridge a deep rift over Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.

The meeting comes on Tuesday, a day after Hungary gave its army and police sweeping new powers to keep refugees out, as the country’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned that Europe was being “overrun”.

The ministers will discuss controversial binding quotas to relocate 120,000 refugees around the EU bloc from front-line states after they failed to reach a deal last week, and ahead of a bloc-wide emergency summit opening on Wednesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged on Monday to do everything to resolve the redistribution of refugees by consensus, rather than simply outvoting European Union partners.

Merkel said “there cannot and will not be a solution overnight” to the crisis and that more meetings will be needed.

Top diplomats from Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, all of whom have rejected the EU proposal for binding quotas, met in Prague on Monday with their counterpart from Luxembourg, which holds the EU presidency.

Despite their opposition to the quota proposal, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek insisted they were “absolutely dedicated” to reaching agreement with fellow EU nations, acknowledging the need for “joint collective action to accelerate the solution to the still very painful situation”.

Meanwhile, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report – released on Monday – accused the police in Macedonia of violence and ill-treatment of refugees streaming into the country from Greece on their way to northern Europe.

In Hungary, a new legislation allowed the army on Monday to use coercive weapons designed to cause bodily harm, although in a non-lethal way, “unless it cannot be avoided”.

The police, meanwhile, will be able to enter private homes for the purpose of carrying out a search for refugees who entered the country illegally, among other new powers.

At Hungary’s border with Croatia on Monday, about 500 refugees disembarked from the buses on the Croatian side.

The refugees then walked towards the Beremend crossing into Hungary, where adults and children alike were checked by Hungarian soldiers.

In Poland, Lech Walesa, a former president, said refugees must be ready to respect the rules and religion in the predominantly Catholic country, if they are to be accepted.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner said a set of rules for admission is needed because with time the refugees will “demand space for themselves and we will have religious, social and all other problems”.

EU wants Poland to accept some 12,000 refugees. Al Jazeera

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