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borders closed

Migrant crisis latest: ANOTHER emergency summit has been hastily arranged

It comes as Hungary effectively closes its border with Serbia – trapping several hundred people on the Serbian side.

Updated at 6.50pm

Hungary Migrants A young boy watches Hungarian soldiers after they stopped his family at the border exit between Serbia and Hungary. Associated Press Associated Press

EUROPEAN UNION INTERIOR ministers will hold a new emergency meeting on the EU’s migration crisis next Tuesday, officials have announced – a day after the bloc failed to agree on plans to relocate tens of thousands of refugees.

Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn of Luxembourg, which currently holds the EU presidency, said the “extraordinary” meeting aimed at getting ministers to approve contested plans to redistribute asylum seekers currently in Greece, Hungary and Italy.

Earlier, Germany called for EU leaders to meet to discuss Europe’s biggest migrant crisis since World War II.

The call from Chancellor Angela Merkel came as Hungary sealed off its border with Serbia to stem a record influx of newcomers.

Germany’s warning

“Time is running out,” Merkel warned, calling for a meeting next week to end the squabbling that has grown more acrimonious since eastern members flatly refused to accept EU-set quotas for absorbing refugees.

“We can manage this,” she insisted, while defending Berlin’s shock decision on Sunday to reinstate border controls on security grounds.

Her call for a crisis summit won backing from visiting Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann who warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” if Europe failed to take a united stance on the crisis, saying “no-one who is in search of protection must lose their lives”.

EU President Donald Tusk said he was consulting with other European leaders and would announce a decision on Thursday on whether to hold a special summit.

Domino effect

Berlin’s move to bring back border controls has had a domino effect, with Austria, Slovakia and Hungary also reimposing identity checks in a further blow to Europe’s vaunted passport-free Schengen zone.

Meanwhile, Hungarian authorities effectively sealed the border with Serbia, blocking a gap in a razor-wire barrier where many of the migrants passed through, pushing them towards towards the nearby official crossing point at Roszke.

But the Roszke crossing and another at Asothalom, 22 kilometres (13 miles) to the east, were both shut too, leaving several hundred people stuck on the Serbian side.

Hungary Migrants Hungarian soldiers stop a migrant family at the border exit between Serbia and Hungary in Asotthalom near Roszke. Associated Press Associated Press

“Why are they doing this?” asked an Afghan woman holding a child on the Serbian side of the border.

Around 300 people were gathered at the site, some walking alongside the razorwire fence searching in vain for an opening, watched by a group of some 20 Hungarian riot police.

“It was really bad last night,” said Bashir, a 17-year-old Afghan schoolboy who arrived an hour after the border closed at midnight.

“It was cold, particularly for families with little babies,” he told AFP.

The closure came as Hungarian police made their first arrests under harsh new laws which came into effect at midnight.

The legislation imposes a sentence of up to three years for crossing the frontier illegally or damaging the border fence.

200,000 migrants

Hungary, which has seen some 200,000 migrants enter the country this year, is also rushing to complete a controversial four-metre high barrier along its border with non-EU Serbia.

With Poland and the Netherlands also considering border controls, there are fears the Schengen system could collapse, even though states are permitted to impose temporary controls for security reasons.

Germany’s decision to reimpose border checks caused long traffic jams on the frontier with Austria where 63,000 asylum seekers have crossed this month.

Since then, the pace of new arrivals has slowed with some 2,000 people crossing, police said.

EU ministers yesterday failed to reach agreement on a plan to share out 120,000 refugees, prompting German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel to say Europe had “disgraced itself”.

The system was proposed as a way of easing the burden on frontline states such as Hungary, Greece and Italy, but it has been rejected out of hand by several eastern member states, prompting German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere to propose cutting EU funds to those who refuse to accept their fair share.

Hungary Migrants Associated Press Associated Press

Boat tragedy

Separately, at least 22 migrants trying to reach Greece by boat, including 11 women and four children, drowned today when their vessel sank off Turkey’s southwest coast.

Turkish coastguards recovered nine more bodies, bringing the toll to 22.

211 migrants were rescued from the wooden boat which set off from the southwestern resort town of Datca for the nearby Greek island of Kos, the Dogan news agency reported.

The nationalities of the migrants are not yet known.

Read: Migrant crisis talks: No agreement on quotas until next month

Also: Why can Germany close its borders and what does it mean for the EU?

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