Hungary border fence proves futile in slowing migrant flow

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

ROSZKE, Hungary (AP) — Clambering over the razor-wire fence or scuttling under it, migrants surged Wednesday across the Serbian border into Hungary. Then they jostled to formally enter the country so they could quickly leave it, heading toward more prosperous European Union nations on a desperate quest to escape war and poverty.

In Roszke, a Hungarian border town, migrants mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan requesting asylum were being processed by authorities. Police used tear gas to break up a brief scuffle involving about 200 migrants, saying the migrants were growing impatient with delays in the registration process caused by the growing number of arrivals.

So far, most of the Hungarian border fence — which is being hastily built to keep the migrants out — consists of three layers of razor wire, which the government says will be completed this month along its 174-kilometer (109-mile) border with Serbia.

But the fence did not stop one group of migrants, including women and children, from crawling under it Wednesday. Using blankets, sleeping bags, jackets and a stick, they raised the wire. As a police car approached, they dashed through a nearby field.

“Very, very difficult,” said Odei, a Syrian migrant from Daraa, “We raised the fence and crossed it now. We were here from yesterday. We are very hungry. There’s no food, there’s no medicine for children, there’s nothing. We are so tired.”

The migrants are following the Balkans route, from Turkey to Greece by sea, up north to Macedonia by bus or foot, by train through Serbia and then walking the last few miles into EU member Hungary. The route avoids the dangerous, sometimes even deadly, Mediterranean Sea crossings of those trying to reach Italy from North Africa. Once inside the 28-nation EU, migrants seek to reach richer EU nations such as Germany, The Netherlands or Sweden.

Over 10,000 migrants, including many women with babies and small children, have crossed into Serbia over the past few days and then headed toward Hungary. The flood follows Macedonia’s decision to lift a three-day blockade of its border with Greece after thousands of migrants simply stormed past Macedonian police.

By early Wednesday morning, 1,302 migrants had already been detained at Hungary’s southern border with Serbia, according to Karoly Papp, Hungary’s national police chief. Police said 2,533 migrants were detained Tuesday, up from 2,093 on Monday, with the numbers setting records nearly every day.

Hungary is still scrambling to react. Papp said over 2,100 police “border hunters” would be deployed beginning Sept. 15, with helicopters, police dogs and patrols on horseback taking part in the effort to secure the border. Water cannons will also be sent to Szeged, the largest city in the region.

“The organization, equipment and great mobility of the border guard units … will decrease the security risks caused by the massive illegal migration,” Papp said.

The hard-hit border nations of Greece, Italy and Hungary have urged the EU and fellow European nations to do more to help share the heavy migrant burden this year, but some nations are refusing to do so because of strong public anti-migrant sentiment or budget constraints.


Pablo Gorondi from Budapest, Hungary and Dusan Stojanovic from Belgrade, Serbia, contributed.


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