Hun­dreds in­jured in clash at Hungary-Ser­bia bor­der

Toronto Star - - REFUGEE CRISIS - DUSAN STO­JANOVIC AND VANESSA GERA THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

HOR­GOS, SER­BIA— Ba­ton-wield­ing Hun­gar­ian riot po­lice un­leashed tear gas and wa­ter can­nons against hun­dreds of mi­grants Wed­nes­day af­ter they broke through a ra­zor-wire fence and tried to surge into the coun­try from Ser­bia. Cry­ing chil­dren fled the acrid smoke and dozens of peo­ple were in­jured in the chaos.

With their path blocked, hun­dreds of other asy­lum seek­ers turned to a more ar­du­ous path to Western Europe through Croa­tia, where of­fi­cials said 1,300 had ar­rived in a sin­gle day — a num­ber that was sure to grow.

On the sealed bor­der into Hungary, frus­trated men — many of them war refugees from Syria and Iraq — hurled rocks and plas­tic wa­ter bot­tles at the hel­meted riot po­lice as they chanted “Open, Open!” in English. Chil­dren and women cried as the young men, their faces wrapped in scarves, charged to­ward the po­lice through thick smoke from tear gas and tires set on fire by the crowd.

“We fled wars and vi­o­lence and did not ex­pect such bru­tal­ity and in­hu­mane treat­ment in Europe,” shouted an Iraqi, Amir Has­san, his eyes red from tear gas and his hair and cloth­ing soaked af­ter be­ing hit by blasts of wa­ter cannon spray. Around him, women screamed and wailed, cov­er­ing their faces with scarves as they poured bot­tled wa­ter into their sob­bing chil­dren’s eyes to re­lieve the sting­ing. Chil­dren gasped from the gas; blood streamed down the face of one man as he ran from the melee, car­ry­ing a small child.

At least two peo­ple were se­ri­ously in­jured and be­tween 200 and 300 oth­ers re­ceived med­i­cal care for tear gas in­hala­tion and in­juries such as cuts, bruises and burns, said Dr. Mar­git Pa­jor, who treated peo­ple at a med­i­cal cen­tre in Kan­jiza, Ser­bia.

UN Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral Ban Kimoon ex­pressed “shock” at the be­hav­iour of Hun­gar­ian po­lice, call­ing it un­ac­cept­able. Re­fer­ring to Syria, he said: “Peo­ple fac­ing bar­rel bombs and bru­tal­ity in their coun­try will con­tinue to seek life in another.”

Hun­gar­ian author­i­ties in­sisted they acted le­git­i­mately in self-de­fence, de­scrib­ing the mi­grants as vi­o­lent and dan­ger­ous. “We will em­ploy all le­gal means to pro­tect Hungary’s bor­der’s se­cu­rity,” said Gy­orgy Bakondi, home­land se­cu­rity ad­viser to Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Or­bán.

The ugly de­vel­op­ments in Europe’s mi­grant cri­sis took place af­ter some of those massed in Ser­bia broke through a gate. They and hun­dreds of oth­ers had grown des­per­ate af­ter Hungary sealed off its bor­der with Ser­bia with a ra­zor-wire fence the day be­fore to stop the huge num­bers of mi­grants en­ter­ing Hungary, which lies on a pop­u­lar route to Western Europe.

Hun­gar­ian author­i­ties said they have ar­rested 519 mi­grants who tried to cross the bor­der since tough new laws went into ef­fect Tues­day that make it a crime to cross from Ser­bia any­where other than at le­gal check­points.

MARKO DJURICA/REUTERS

Hun­gar­ian po­lice fired tear gas at frus­trated mi­grants de­mand­ing en­trance to Hungary from Ser­bia on Wed­nes­day.

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