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News 15 Sep 15

Hungary Declares Emergency in Border Counties

The Hungarian authorities have declared a state of emergency in two counties on the border with Serbia after introducing tough new legislation to curb the influx of refugees.

Igor Jovanovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Photo by BETA

Hungary declared a state of emergency on Tuesday in two counties near the border with Serbia citing a large number of refugees trying to enter the country from Serbia.

The news came as tough new legislation went into force on Tuesday allowing the police to detain and charge refugees who breach the razor-wire fence on the border with Serbia and enter the country illegally.

Hungarian border police announced on Tuesday that they would not allow in any more refugees waiting since midnight to enter the country.

According to media reports refugees reacted by saying they would not move from the border even if they needed to wait there for months.

Hungarian police on Monday afternoon sealed off the railway line between Hungary and Serbia, which had been the main informal crossing point between the two countries for tens of thousands of refugees and migrants who have used it as a transit point on their journey to the EU.

Serbia’s Tanjug news agency reported on Tuesday that a large number of refugees had assembled on the Serbian side of the border after Hungary shut the crossing half an hour after midnight.

Tanjug also reported that that Hungarian police arrested 16 refugees after they cut the barbed-wire fence and illegally entered the country.

Refugees are now only permitted to use the official border crossing between Serbia and Hungary.

Hungarian policemen who have been deployed near the border, some on horseback, were supported by military units and helicopters on Monday.

They announced that a total of 7,437 refugees and migrants entered the country from Serbia on Monday - a record number.

The new Hungarian border legislation which went into effect on Tuesday extends the option of deploying the army on the borders, and says that illegal immigration will be punishable by up to three years in prison.

Police buses will now take asylum applicants to registration centres, but if their applications are refused they will now be returned to Serbia rather than being given passage through Hungary, the BBC reported.

In Serbia, Nenad Ivanisevic, a senior official in the Serbian Labour Ministry, on Monday said Serbia would not accept refugees sent back from Hungary.

"If they want to return the refugees, they will have to return them to Greece, which is the first EU country they entered. We will not accept them even if we need necessary to deploy army personnel along the border line," Belgrade-based Beta news agency quoted Ivanisevic as saying.

Ivan Miskovic, a spokesman for the Serbian Commissariat for Refugees, said that there was no massive arrival of refugees in reception camps in Serbia on Tuesday.

He told the Belgrade-based Beta news agency that on Tuesday morning around 1,000 refugees were located in the southern municipality of Presevo, while around 600 people were in northern town of Kanjizi moving towards Hungarian border.

Hungarian journalists have revealed a government plan to impose even tighter measures on asylum-seekers.

www.euractiv.com also reported that the Hungarian authorities will send back to Serbia every refugee without a Schengen visa because European Commission has declared Serbia a safe country. Meanwhile any refugee who enters Hungary without a visa will be taken to a state-of-emergency court, it was reported.

Serbian officials have admitted they will face problems if the Hungarian government stops refugees from entering the country.

The labour and interior ministers, Aleksandar Vulin and Nebojsa Stefanovic, announced on Monday that Serbia required manpower and financial assistance for equipping temporary reception centres to accommodate refugees and migrants.

Vulin and Stefanovic expressed gratitude for the assistance provided by the EU so far, but said they expected Brussels to provide more.

Earlier on Monday Vulin said that the government was expecting more migrants to stay in Serbia after some EU countries introduced emergency border controls.

In an interview with Serbian public broadcaster RTS, Vulin rejected any possibility of Serbia erecting walls on its borders in order to stop refugees.

He said that Serbia will build several reception camps on its northern borders, near Hungary, in towns such as Sombor, Kikinda, Kanjiza, Subotica and Sid.

“Serbia will not spend its own money on this, we will use European funds,” he added.

Serbia is a transit country for the refugees on their path towards the EU member countries. More than 130,000 refugees have passed through Serbia since the beginning of the year, said interior minister Nebojsa Stefanovic last week.

The majority of them stayed for only two or three days in Serbia before heading to Hungary, but after Budapest introduced tighter measures on its border, Serbian officials believe that the refugees will stay from five to ten days.

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