ROSZKE, Hungary, Aug 25 (Reuters) – A surge in migrants, many of them refugees from Syria, hit Hungary’s southern border on Tuesday, passing through gaps in an unfinished barrier to a Europe groping for answers to its worst refugee crisis since World War Two.
Nearing the end of a flight from war and poverty, they walked around or over coils of barbed wire strung out along Hungary’s 175-km (109-mile) frontier with Serbia, children hoisted on shoulders, bags in hand.
“The wave has definitely reached us now,” said Mark Kekesi, head of a migration NGO called MigSzol Szeged. “There have never been this many of them, and we expect this to continue for a while.”
The Balkans is in the grips of an unprecedented surge in migration fuelled by war in Syria and instability across the Middle East.
More than 100,000 migrants have entered Hungary, part of Europe’s Schengen zone of passport-free travel, this year en route to the more affluent countries of western and northern Europe. While still small in comparison with the record numbers on the move nearer conflict zones, the flow is increasing.
The influx into Hungary ticked up on Monday to its highest daily rate this year – 2,093. More were on their way, with an estimated 8,000 making their way through Serbia and 3,000 crossing from Greece into Macedonia every day.
Hungary demanded more money from the EU to alleviate the burden, saying the distribution of funds was “humiliating”. One senior European official said that, in the absence of action, “Europe has failed”.
The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, warned against expecting numbers to fall any time soon. “We do not see any end to the flow of people to come in the coming months,” said a spokeswoman.
Even as the migrants entered, the Hungarian army was busy building a border fence to keep them out, bulldozers and heavy machinery shifting earth and erecting walls.
The fence is finished in parts, while in others there are coils of barbed wire easily negotiated by migrants who faced down stun grenades and tear gas in Macedonia last week.