Migrants keep sneaking through Hungary’s razor-wire fence

By , , on September 16, 2015


War refugees at the Keleti Railway Station on 5 September 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. Refugees are arriving constantly to Hungary on the way to Germany. (Alexandre Rotenberg / Shutterstock)
War refugees at the Keleti Railway Station on 5 September 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. Refugees are arriving constantly to Hungary on the way to Germany. (Alexandre Rotenberg / Shutterstock)

ASOTTHALOM, Hungary — Small groups of migrants continued to sneak into Hungary on Wednesday, a day after the country sealed its border with Serbia and began arresting people trying to breach the razor-wire barrier, while migrants began arriving in Croatia seeking a different way into the European Union.

Hungarian police said they have arrested a total of 519 migrants who tried to cross the border illegally since tough new laws went into effect on Tuesday that make it a crime to cross the border from Serbia. Authorities launched 46 criminal prosecutions and the first court cases are due to start later Wednesday.

Televised images from a courthouse in Szeged showed four of those being charged with their hands tied in front of them and their shoelaces removed ahead of trial.

While the tough new measures have mostly stopped the flow across the border, isolated groups still managed to crawl under or climb over the forbidding barbed wire of the 175-kilometer (110-miles) border fence to enter the EU.

Early Wednesday, police on horseback surrounded a group of 14 Afghans, including five young girls and an elderly woman, in a field close to the fence. As they watched over the group, the officers’ radio crackled with news of other migrants being detained — one Syrian, one Afghan, a group of 11.

Along the fence early in the morning, there was evidence of how it has been breached, though it was not clear when it happened. In one spot a carpet still covered three rolls of razor wire.

Small groups of young men also walked along roads leading away from the border. One asked a passing reporter: “Is this the way to Budapest?”

Most of the migrants who had hoped to cross into Hungary were still trapped along the border in Horgos, Serbia, however, with their patience running out. Some left to find other routes into the EU, though about 2,000 continued to wait, some chanting at the Hungarian police to open the border.

“We are staying at the border in Hungary until they open,” said Ahmed Rashid Yousef, who fled Syria. “We are feeling hungry and feeling angry. We are suffering.”

Most hope to reach Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has said it expects some 800,000 refugees to arrive in Germany this year alone. The vice chancellor has said the number could even reach 1 million.

One refugee from Syria pleaded with a Hungarian policewoman over the razor wire fence: “Please let me go. Merkel said OK we can come to Germany, why Hungary say no?” he said.

Other migrants were seeking new paths on their way to Western Europe, some choosing to take the longer route through Croatia.

About 150 people crossed into Tovarnik, Croatia, early Wednesday after they were bused to the Serbian border town of Sid on an all-night ride from Macedonia.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic criticized Hungary’s decision to seal its border with Serbia for migrants and said Croatia will not do the same.

“We are ready to accept and direct those people,” he told Parliament. “They will be able to pass through Croatia and we are working intensively to enable that.”

“Barbed wire in Europe in the 21st century is not an answer, it’s a threat,” Milanovic said.

Dozens of police and aid workers waited for the migrants in Croatia, where they are being registered. Local media say some migrants have sought to cross into Croatia through nearby fields to avoid registration.

Migrants have avoided Croatia in the past because they must still go into Hungary or Slovenia before reaching Austria or Germany.

Elsewhere in Europe migrants remained on the move.

Greek police said about 5,000 refugees and migrants crossed the country’s northern border with Macedonia in the 24 hours from Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, Austria began selective controls of vehicles at three main border crossings with Hungary as it tries to impose some order over the stream of people.

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Stojanovic reported from Horgos, Serbia; Vanessa Gera and Alex Kuli in Budapest, Hungary; Darko Bandic in Tovarnik, Croatia; Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia; and George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report.