Hungarian police repel migrants at Serbian border

Yahoo News – By Dusan Stojanovic/AP – September 16, 2015

Migrants arrive along rail tracks as Hungarian police officers seal off the border with Serbia, near the Hungarian migrant collection point in Roszke
Migrants arrive along rail tracks as Hungarian police officers seal off the border with Serbia, near the Hungarian migrant collection point in Roszke, Hungary, September 14, 2015/Reuters/Laszlo Balogh

HORGOS, Serbia (AP) — Hungarian police used tear gas and water cannons on hundreds of migrants who broke through a razor wire fence on the border with Serbia on Wednesday, while migrants prevented from moving through Hungary increasingly began taking a longer route into Western Europe through Croatia.

Frustrated migrants blocked on the Serbian side of the border threw plastic water bottles and rocks at helmeted riot police and chanted demands that the border be re-opened. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons.

“We fled wars and violence and did not expect such brutality and inhumane treatment in Europe,” said Amir Hassan, an Iraqi who was soaking wet from the water cannon and trying to wash tear gas from his eyes. “Shame on you, Hungarians,” he shouted pointing in the direction of the shielded Hungarian policemen who were firing volleys of tear gas canisters directly into the crowd.

The clashes took place at a small border crossing in the Serbian village Horgos, a short distance from the main border crossing into Hungary. Serbian authorities sent ambulances to the site but it wasn’t immediately clear how many people were injured.

Before the tensions escalated, some women had pushed to the front of the crowd and held small babies and children above their heads as they faced police in an obvious appeal for mercy, but no one made it through.

In the past few months, Hungary has become a main entry point into the European Union for migrants, many of them war refugees from Syria and Iraq, with more than 200,000 entering the country so far this year. Almost all entered from the southern border with Serbia and passed through Hungary quickly on their way to Germany or other wealthy Western European nations.

Serbia Migrants

Hungarian police use pepper spray on migrants at the “Horgos 2” border crossing into the Hungary, near Horgos, Serbia, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. Small groups of migrants continued to sneak into Hungary on Wednesday, a day after the country sealed its border with Serbia and began arresting people trying to breach the razor-wire barrier, while a first group arrived in Croatia seeking another way into the European Union. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Hungarian authorities also said Wednesday that they have arrested a total of 519 migrants who tried to cross the border since tough new laws went into effect on Tuesday that make it a crime to cross from Serbia anywhere other than at legal checkpoints. Authorities launched 46 criminal prosecutions and found two Iraqi men guilty, the first convictions based on the new laws.

Two men were expelled from Hungary, with one banned from re-entering the country for one year, the other banned for two years.

Televised images from a courthouse in Szeged earlier showed four Iraqi men who were charged with their hands tied in front of them and their shoelaces removed ahead of trial.

Syrian President Bashar Assad on Wednesday blamed Europe for the crisis, saying it’s a direct result of the West’s support for extremists in Syria over the past four years.

In an interview with Russian media, Assad accused Europe of supporting “terrorism” and providing “protection for terrorists, calling them moderates.”

“How can one be indignant about a drowned child and remain silent about the deaths of thousands of children, elderly people, women and men killed by terrorists in Syria?” Assad said.

Hungary’s foreign minister denied that closed borders and tough new laws signal callousness toward refugees, repeating the government’s claim that most of those entering Hungary are actually economic migrants.

“Based on our history, we are always in solidarity with the refugees,” Peter Szijjarto told The Associated Press in an interview. “What we’re saying is that we cannot accept economic migrants because we cannot bear the burden of that.”

Most of the migrants who had hoped to cross into Hungary were still trapped along the border in Horgos, however. Many were confused about whether to keep waiting or to try to enter the EU through Croatia, a longer and less direct path into Western Europe.

Melita Sunjic, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency, said that early in the day the migrants were refusing to leave the border but changed their minds because of news and rumors going around that Croatia’s borders were open.

Most hope to reach Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has said it expects some 800,000 refugees to arrive this year alone. The vice chancellor has said the number could even reach 1 million.

“I don’t know what to do — stay here or try some other way to cross the border,” said Ahmed Sami from Aleppo, Syria. “We walked and traveled for hundreds, thousands of kilometers only to be stopped meters from the European Union. My wife and children cannot stand on their feet any more. This is tragic.”

Read entire article here

Posted by Teri Perticone

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