Officials in Hungary are fielding criticism after authorities declared a state of crisis all along the country’s southern border with Serbia. The border is now sealed, which means that migrants caught crossing into Hungary are doing so illegally; so far officials have detained 60 people, with more arrests expected. The state of emergency also expands police power and paves the way for troop deployment should the situation spiral out of control.
Hungary has set up a “transit zone” alone the border for the purposes of screening migrants attempting to enter the country; only those who have applied for asylum will be allowed to enter.
More from the New York Times:
As of Tuesday afternoon, Hungary said 48 migrants in the transit zone had applied for asylum, with 13 rejected and the rest under review — a tiny fraction of the number of migrants at the border.
Hungarian officials said they were preparing to erect a fence along the country’s eastern border with Romania that would be similar to the one on the Serbian border.
Speaking from the border village of Horgos, Serbia’s labor minister, Aleksandar Vulin, told the Serbian broadcaster B92 that the situation could “spiral out of control.” He called for Hungary to open the border and for refugees to be allowed to seek asylum in Hungary. He said that migrants were arriving from all directions and that 1,000 were stranded “in no man’s land.”
Mr. Vulin said Serbia would provide food, water and transportation to temporary shelters, but he added that the crisis could not be solved without Hungary’s cooperation.
Migrants stuck at the border threatened on Tuesday to conduct a hunger strike. About 200 migrants chanted “Open, open, open!” and “Germany! Germany!”
The problem doesn’t exist in Serbia alone. If migrants attempt to change their route to bypass Serbia, officials are prepared to extend control zones to stem the changing flow; Hungarian officials have threatened to extend their border fence along the Romanian border as well.
The Guardian posted a map with the border areas in question highlighted:
Austria is also preparing for the possibility of losing the Hungarian buffer.
Meanwhile, officials in western Europe are calling for an EU-wide solution to the growing crisis:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Austria called Tuesday for a special European Union summit next week to discuss the continent’s immigration crisis.
But their slow deliberations appeared disconnected from the rapidly shifting situation on the most besieged borders of Europe, where Austria, Slovakia and even the Netherlands joined Germany in reintroducing border controls for the first time in a generation in a bid to record the arrivals of thousands daily from the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
The checks, involving police on trains and on border roads, snarled traffic and slowed the speed and volume of refugees reaching Germany, which had received more than 60,000 newcomers since throwing opens its borders Sept. 5 to people trying to reach the E.U. heavyweight via Hungary, the Balkans and Greece.
Germany’s decision to deploy police on borders and trains could trigger “a domino effect and then we can forget Schengen,” he said, referring to the 1985 agreement that gradually removed passport checks on most European borders.
We’ll keep you updated on the situation as it evolves.
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