Hungary fence proves fu­tile in slow­ing mi­grants


Clam­ber­ing over the ra­zor-wire fence or scut­tling un­der it, mi­grants surged Wed­nes­day across the Ser­bian bor­der into Hungary. Then they jos­tled to for­mally en­ter the coun­try so they could quickly leave it, head­ing to­ward more pros­per­ous Euro­pean Union na­tions on a des­per­ate quest to es­cape war and poverty.

In Roszke, a Hun­gar­ian bor­der town, mi­grants mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan re­quest­ing asy­lum were be­ing pro­cessed by author­i­ties. Po­lice used tear gas to break up a brief scuf­fle in­volv­ing about 200 mi­grants, say­ing the mi­grants were grow­ing im­pa­tient with de­lays in the reg­is­tra­tion process caused by the grow­ing num­ber of ar­rivals.

So far, most of the Hun­gar­ian bor­der fence — which is be­ing hastily built to keep the mi­grants out — con­sists of three lay­ers of ra­zor wire, which the gov­ern­ment says will be com­pleted this month along its 174-kilo­me­ter (109-mile) bor­der with Ser­bia.

But the fence did not stop one group of mi­grants, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren, from crawl­ing un­der it Wed­nes­day. Us­ing blan­kets, sleep­ing bags, jack­ets and a stick, they raised the wire. As a po­lice car ap­proached, they dashed through a nearby field.

“Very, very dif­fi­cult,” said Odei, a Syr­ian mi­grant from Daraa, “We raised the fence and crossed it now. We were here from yesterday. We are very hun­gry. There’s no food, there’s no medicine for chil­dren, there’s noth­ing. We are so tired.”

The mi­grants are fol­low­ing the Balkans route, from Tur­key to Greece by sea, up north to Mace­do­nia by bus or foot, by train through Ser­bia and then walk­ing the last few miles into EU mem­ber Hungary. The route avoids the dan­ger­ous, some­times even deadly, Mediter­ranean Sea cross­ings of those try­ing to reach Italy from North Africa. Once in­side the 28-na­tion EU, mi­grants seek to reach richer EU na­tions such as Ger­many, The Nether­lands or Swe­den.

Over 10,000 mi­grants, in­clud­ing many women with ba­bies and small chil­dren, have crossed into Ser­bia over the past few days and then headed to­ward Hungary. The flood fol­lows Mace­do­nia’s de­ci­sion to lift a three-day block­ade of its bor­der with Greece af­ter thou­sands of mi­grants sim­ply stormed past Macedonian po­lice.

By early Wed­nes­day morn­ing, 1,302 mi­grants had al­ready been de­tained at Hungary’s south­ern bor­der with Ser­bia, ac­cord­ing to Karoly Papp, Hungary’s na­tional po­lice chief. Po­lice said 2,533 mi­grants were de­tained Tues­day, up from 2,093 on Mon­day, with the num­bers set­ting records nearly ev­ery day.

Hungary is still scram­bling to re­act. Papp said over 2,100 po­lice “bor­der hun­ters” would be de­ployed be­gin­ning Sept. 15, with he­li­copters, po­lice dogs and pa­trols on horse­back tak­ing part in the ef­fort to se­cure the bor­der. Wa­ter can­nons will also be sent to Szeged, the largest city in the re­gion.

“The or­ga­ni­za­tion, equip­ment and great mo­bil­ity of the bor­der guard units ... will de­crease the se­cu­rity risks caused by the mas­sive illegal mi­gra­tion,” Papp said.

The hard-hit bor­der na­tions of Greece, Italy and Hungary have urged the EU and fel­low Euro­pean na­tions to do more to help share the heavy mi­grant bur­den this year, but some na­tions are re­fus­ing to do so be­cause of strong public anti-mi­grant sen­ti­ment or bud­get con­straints.


Syr­ian refugees cross into Hungary un­der­neath the bor­der fence on the Hun­gar­ian-Ser­bian bor­der near Roszke, Hungary, Wed­nes­day, Aug. 26.

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