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razor-wire fences

Merkel vows zero tolerance for migrant hate - as 55 bodies found on boats

Meanwhile the Defence Forces have rescued hundreds of people – including 71 children – in an operation tonight.

GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA Merkel faced down far-right hecklers today, vowing zero tolerance for “vile” anti-migrant violence as rescuers found 55 corpses on stricken boats in the Mediterranean.

The biggest migration crisis to hit Europe since World War II spiralled further as chaotic scenes erupted at a Hungarian border town with police firing tear gas, and Budapest considering deploying troops to stem a record influx of asylum-seekers.

Alarmed by the worsening situation, UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged countries “in Europe and elsewhere to prove their compassion and do much more to bring an end to the crisis”.

The thousands of migrants and refugees who brave perilous journeys “should not, when they arrive, encounter new challenges,” Ban said during a visit to Paris.

Hamstrung by a lack of a coherent European response to the crisis, governments have undertaken at times contradictory approaches to the problem.

Hungary is building a vast razor-wire barrier to keep migrants out, while Czech deputy prime minister Andrej Babis has called for the visa-free Schengen zone be closed with the help of NATO troops.

Meanwhile Germany, which is preparing to receive a record 800,000 asylum-seekers this year, has confirmed it has eased the asylum application procedure for Syrians fleeing the country’s brutal civil war.

But Berlin’s largesse has not been welcomed by everyone at home, particularly in the east where a spate of attacks has hit refugee centres.

Germany France Migrants Markus Schreiber Markus Schreiber

On her visit to a migrant shelter in the eastern town of Heidenau, Merkel was greeted by about 200 protesters, some booing and shouting “traitor, traitor” and “we are the mob” as she arrived.

But the German leader vowed:

“There will be no tolerance of those who question the dignity of other people.”

She added that the more people who carry this message, “the stronger we will be and the better we will be able to address this task” of caring for refugees.

Public opinion was largely behind her, with 60 percent of Germans polled by public broadcaster ZDF saying that Europe’s biggest economy was capable of hosting the asylum-seekers.

- 55 dead in Med tragedies -

At least 55 dead bodies were discovered earlier on three overcrowded migrant boats in the Mediterranean, according to the Italian coastguard, on a day that saw some 3,000 others rescued in the sea.

Almost all of the victims were found in the hold of a boat found drifting off the Libyan coast by a Swedish vessel.

Media reports said they had choked to death on gas fumes.

The macabre discoveries add to a toll of more than 2,300 people who have drowned in the Mediterranean since the beginning of 2015, already exceeding the death toll for the whole of 2014, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

def1 Irish Defence Forces personnel rescue migrants off Libya tonight. Defence Forces Defence Forces

In Hungary, another country overwhelmed by record numbers arriving, there were ugly scenes in the border town of Roszke as police fired tear gas at people who were trying to leave a refugee processing centre after refusing to be fingerprinted.

Hungarian lawmakers will vote next week on whether to send troops to stem the influx, as more than 2,500 people crossed into the EU country from its southern frontier with Serbia, days before the completion of the razor-wire fence.

Syrians, Afghans and Pakistanis, including more than 500 children, are among those rushing to reach Hungary before the border is sealed.

“We left because we were scared — we had fear, bombs, war, killing, death,” one Syrian man told AFP as he headed for the Hungarian border.

“That’s why we left Syria.”

def2 Defence Forces Defence Forces

- More rescued by Defence Forces –  

The LÉ Niamh completed another rescue this evening from off the coast of Libya, taking 551 people on board from a wooden barge 55 kilometres north of Zuwarah.

The 384 men, 96 women and 71 children are being given food, water and medical help where needed.

The Defence Forces vessel is now heading for port in Sicily, where it is expected to dock at 3pm tomorrow afternoon.

© AFP, 2015 with reporting by Daragh Brophy.

Read “Exceptionally busy”: Irish holidaymakers are still packing out flights to Kos

Read This photographer’s incredible photo of a refugee family has gone viral



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