Hungary migrant crisis escalates

  • 27/08/2015
Syrian migrants cross under a fence into Hungary (Reuters)
Syrian migrants cross under a fence into Hungary (Reuters)

By Csaba Segesvari

Hungary's migrant crisis has escalated as police fired teargas at its main processing centre and the government announced it was sending 2000 "border hunters" to stem the flow of record numbers of people entering from Serbia.

Police used the teargas to disperse around 200 migrants who had refused to be fingerprinted and trying to leave the processing centre at Roszke near the border with non-EU Serbia, along which Hungary is erecting a fence.

A police spokesman, Szabolcs Szenti, said "police are trying to calm the situation, but the migrants are continuing to shout."

An AFP correspondent at the scene said the situation has since calmed down. Another spokesman said the migrants wanted to leave the centre after news circulated that Germany was easing asylum rules for people fleeing the civil war in Syria.

Police said, meanwhile, that more than 2500 people, the highest ever daily total, poured across Hungary's southern border with Serbia near the town of Roszke on Tuesday even though a barbed-wire barrier is nearly complete.

The majority were from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and included more than 500 children.

"We left because we were scared, we had fear, bombs, war, killing, death ... That's why we left Syria," one Syrian man heading for the Hungarian border told AFP.

"If I go to Europe, I think it's going to be better... better than my life in Syria."

The migrants crossing into Hungary form part of around 7000 refugees and migrants whose journey to the European Union was blocked last week when Macedonia declared a state of emergency and shut its borders for three days after being overwhelmed by the influx.

As Europe struggles with its worst migrant crisis since World War II, Hungary has become – like Italy and Greece – a "front line" state and many of the hundreds of thousands of people trying to enter the bloc travel up through the western Balkans.

A summit of western Balkans leaders plus German Chancellor Angela Merkel set to be dominated by the crisis takes place on Vienna on Thursday.

So far this year, 140,630 migrants have been intercepted crossing into Hungary, the vast majority over from Serbia. The daily number has leaped from 150 in early 2015 to more than 2000 this month.