September 2015 – HORGOS, SERBIA — After shutting down the main corridor for refugees to Central Europe and fortifying its border with 109 miles of razor-wire fencing, Hungary on Tuesday began mass arrests of migrants who tried to sneak across its frontier. More than 150 were detained as the country drew its line in the sand. Its get-tough approach to the European refugee crisis created an immediate bottleneck and howls of protest. Within hours, a tent city sprouted on the Serbian side of the border, creating another potential flash point of misery and anger, as refugees scrambled for new routes to their preferred destinations in Germany and Scandinavia.
Hungary’s move was condemned by neighboring countries, humanitarian organizations and migrants, who staged spontaneous demonstrations along the newly erected fence. Yet Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his government made good on their promise to take a hard line, insisting that refugees who had escaped Syria’s civil war, for example, were safe once they had reached Turkey or Jordan and did not need to march through Hungary on their way to wealthy, welcoming nations such as Germany.
From a Hungarian outpost at the border fence, a voice shouted in Arabic through a loudspeaker: “We are not opening the border!” Hungary dispatched the first of 800 new border guards to the fence, as authorities declared a state of emergency in two counties bordering Serbia, a move that would allow the parliament to deploy troops to the region. Gyorgy Bakondi, a Hungarian security adviser, said authorities detained at least 155 people trying to cross into the country, some of whom were attempting to damage portions of the fence.
New rules in Hungary also put smuggling networks on notice, increasing prison terms for convicted human traffickers. The refugees kept coming — and dying along the way. At least 22 migrants were reported drowned in the Aegean Sea after their 65-foot boat capsized as they were trying to reach the Greek island of Kos. Among the dead were four children. The Turkish coast guard said 249 people were rescued in that incident, just two days after 34 refugees drowned in a similar sinking. Migrants chanted “Save us from drowning” at Istanbul’s main bus station as they demanded transport to the border crossing near Greece and Bulgaria, about 100 miles to the northwest, possibly opening up new routes through the Balkans, the Reuters news agency reported. –Washington Post
Prison sentences for illegal entry: Only 367 migrants crossed illegally into Hungary yesterday, the first day of tough laws to punish unauthorized entry into the country, and all were arrested, police said today. Of the total, 316 will be prosecuted for damaging a barbed-wire fence set down by Hungary on its Serbian border, and the other 51 for illegally entering the country, they said. More than 200,000 migrants have transited through Hungary so far this year, with most of them seeking to get to Germany. On Monday alone, police said a record number of 9,380 migrants had entered the country. Under the new laws, crossing the border illegally can result in a prison term of up to three years.
This can rise to five years if people damage the razor wire or a more substantial four-meter-high barrier which is still under construction along the 175km border with Serbia. Hungary is also planning another anti-migrant fence along part of its border with Romania, a minister said yesterday. The moves have been criticized by human rights groups, and the Council of Europe — the European human rights watchdog — has expressed concern. –Malay Online