SERBIAN-HUNGARIAN BORDER Crowds of migrants built up at Serbia’s northern border with Hungary on Tuesday, their passage into the European Union blocked by a razor wire fence they can now no longer struggle through or go around.
A day after the pressure of people seeking refuge from war and poverty tore up two decades of frontier-free travel within Europe, Hungary effectively shut this entrance to the EU in scenes carrying echoes of the Cold War.
Families with small children sat in fields beneath the former communist country’s new 3.5-metre high fence running almost the length of the EU’s external border with Serbia, halted by a right-wing government that hailed a “new era”.
Rules which came into force at midnight will send them back if they seek asylum and mean arrest if they breach the fence, which thousands did while it was being built.
Long queues formed in no-man’s land at metal containers built into the fence, where migrants were expected to register, though only a handful were seen entering. They had spent the night in the open, given tents, food and water by aid workers.
Nine Syrians and seven Afghans were detained by police and face possible imprisonment on suspicion of breaching the fence, the first arrests under the new rules.
Hungary says it will let refugees request asylum. But under the new regime, they risk expulsion within eight days to Serbia, which Budapest has declared ‘safe’ for refugees.
“I don’t know what I will do,” said 40-year-old Riad from Aleppo, once Syria’s commercial hub reduced in many parts to rubble since war broke out in 2011 and put to flight millions of Syrians. “I will wait to see. We have lost everything to reach this point.”
The influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Asia has triggered discord and recrimination in Europe.
EU ministers failed to break a deadlock on Monday over sharing out responsibility for some of those seeking asylum. Austria and Slovakia followed Germany in re-establishing border controls and Austria said it would dispatch armed forces to guard its eastern frontier with Hungary.
At least 200,000 migrants have crossed Hungary so far this year, streaming north through the Balkan peninsula having hit Greek shores by boat and dinghy from Turkey. More than 9,000 entered on …Read More