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Hungary migrant crisis escalates as police fire tear gas

27 august 2015, 11:37
0

Hungary's migrant crisis escalated Wednesday as police fired tear gas at the EU country's main processing centre and the government announced 2,000 "border hunters" to stem the flow of record numbers of people entering, AFP reports.

With more than 2,500 people crossing from non-EU Serbia on Tuesday alone, pushing to total for the year above 140,000, Hungary's right-wing ruling party said it wanted to deploy the army.

Police used tear gas Wednesday morning to disperse around 200 migrants who had refused to be fingerprinted and were trying to leave the processing centre at Roszke near the Serbian border.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said the situation inside the centre 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 war in Syria.

More migrants crossed over on Wednesday, the AFP correspondent said, although for the most part they were waiting for nightfall to try to avoid Hungarian border police.

At a police collecting point where migrants were gathered before being brought to Roszke, around 150-200 were sitting waiting in the hot sun next to corn fields as their children played.

Tuesday's record daily total of 2,500 people pouring over the border was despite Hungarian authorities having installed along much of the border a barbed-wire barrier that video footage showed is far from insurmountable.

The majority of the latest arrivals were from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and included more than 500 children. Most want to travel onto western European countries such as Germany and Sweden.

"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 7,000 whose journey was blocked last week when Macedonia declared a state of emergency and shut its borders for three days after being overwhelmed by the influx.

  'Frontline state' 

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

A summit of leaders from the impoverished region plus German Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and other ministers and officials in Vienna on Thursday was set to be dominated by the topic.

Hungary is attractive to the migrants because unlike other EU members in southeastern Europe like Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania it is the passport-free Schengen zone, making onwards travel much easier.

Hungary's government under Prime Minister Viktor Orban is attempting to stem the flow by erected a four-metre-high (13-foot) barrier along its 175-kilometre (110-mile) border with Serbia. 

The barrier of three rolls of barbed wire along the entire length is due to be completed by Monday.

Hungary's police chief Karoly Papp said more than 2,000 police would be operational along the Serbian border from September.

The reinforcements, called "border hunters", will patrol the length of the frontier, supporting the more than 1,000 regular police already working around the clock to intercept illegal immigrants, Papp said.

  'Cannot tolerate aggression' 

A senior figure from Orban's Fidesz party said Wednesday that parliament could approve next week deploying troops at the border.

"Illegal migrants are becoming increasingly aggressive, we cannot tolerate what happened in Roszke, we cannot accept this aggression," said Szilard Nemeth, a senior party figure and deputy head of the National Security parliamentary committee.

Szalai Balazs, a volunteer with migrant solidarity group Sziget helping people near the border, told AFP: "The police cannot solve the problem because the government wont allow them to do things better. 

"They don't have enough human resources, they don't have enough money to do this better. I think its not by building fences that we can solve this problem."

And the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, Nils Muiznieks, said plans to use the army were "ill-advised."

"Militarisation of borders is wrong answer to migration. It is urgent to adopt a European response which ensures access to asylum & humane reception conditions," he said on Twitter.


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