Hungary faces criticism over migrant treatment

  • 18/09/2015
The United Nations has called Hungary's treatment of migrants "unacceptable" and "unbecoming" (reuters)
The United Nations has called Hungary's treatment of migrants "unacceptable" and "unbecoming" (reuters)

Hungary has come under mounting criticism as regional neighbours joined the UN in blasting its use of water cannon and tear gas against migrants as "unacceptable" and "unbecoming".

Greece, Croatia and Serbia, all of whom are under mounting pressure as Europe struggles with its biggest migration crisis since World War II, had harsh words for Budapest's treatment of migrants at its southern border on Wednesday (local time).

But Hungary brushed off the criticism, with Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto describing the world's reading of the events as "bizarre and shocking".

Hours after the clashes, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was personally "shocked" to see how the refugees and migrants were being treated.

"It's not acceptable," he said.

In Greece, which has seen over 300,000 migrants passing through since the beginning of the year, foreign ministry spokesman Constantinos Koutras lashed out at Hungary's "raving".

"We are unable to keep up with the raving of Hungarian officials against our country," he said, labelling as 'unacceptable' the behaviour of Hungarian security forces "against refugees, even babies, living the drama and misery of war."

"The use of violence, patrols with guns and pushing innocent war victims into Balkan minefields is behaviour unbecoming of an EU member state."

The migrant crisis "demands humanity, cooperation, solidarity and coordination" with the rest of Europe and not "use of violence and the return of Cold War walls," he added.

As migrants blazed a new trail through Croatia, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said his country's capacity to help the refugees was "limited" but it would do its best.

"We know how to behave like humans," Milanovic told his cabinet.

Serbia also took aim at Hungary's treatment of the asylum seekers.

"We condemn brutal police behaviour towards refugees," Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said. "This torture and non-European behaviour must stop."

But Hungary's top diplomat insisted that "aggressive people such as seen yesterday will never be let in, Hungary will defend its borders no matter what outrageous criticism it gets from whomever in the international political elite."

The clashes erupted at the flashpoint Roszke crossing as police tried to block dozens of migrants massed on the Serbian side of the border from breaching a razor-wire fence. Riot police fired tear gas and water cannon as migrants threw sticks, stones and plastic bottles.

UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres warned that some of the measures implemented by Hungary violated international law.