Hundreds injured in clash at Hungary-Serbia border
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.
Hungarian police fired tear gas at frustrated migrants demanding entrance to Hungary from Serbia on Wednesday.