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Wave of migrants trying to reach Europe

TISZASZIGET, Hungary — A wave of tens of thousands of migrants and refugees — many fleeing wars and poverty in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Africa — has worked its way up the length of the Balkans in recent days.

The migrants have overwhelmed authorities in one stop after another, from the tiny Greek island of Kos to impoverished Macedonia, which declared a state of emergency last week, and now the train and bus stations of Serbia, as the migrants head north to their destinations in the richer nations of the European Union.

The next link on their route are towns like this one on the Hungarian frontier with Serbia. But Hungarian officials say they have a firm, if unwelcoming, answer to the tide: a fence.

Still under construction, parts of it are laced across fields and river banks or trace old railway tracks, and it will be as tall as 13 feet in some places, a patchwork intended to send a clear message that the migrants should not expect to move freely.

But the fence also stands as a much criticized and a very physical manifestation of the quandary of the migration crisis and the lack of cooperation among European Union nations as they struggle to deal with it.

As the chaotic flow through the Balkans has demonstrated, absent coordinated policies, each nation along the path of the migrants has every incentive to move them on. The migrants are registered or issued temporary transit papers, but not entered as asylum applicants, thus passing the problem to someone else.

In a third to a half of the cases, that has been Germany, which has received more migrants than any other EU nation, but where the welcome mat is wearing thin.

After a weekend of demonstrations outside Dresden — both for and against the migrants — Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande of France on Monday met to discuss the issue yet again, urging a unified European response and underscoring the need to move as swiftly as possible.

About 43,650 refugees and migrants have passed through Macedonia in the past two months, according to official numbers from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Between Saturday night and Sunday, more than 7,000 refugees crossed into Serbia from Macedonia, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

The migrants are expected to reach the Hungarian border in the next few days. Many are expected to make the final push toward Austria and Germany.