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News 04 Oct 16

Refugees Start March from Belgrade to Hungary

A group of around 350 refugees and migrants began a protest march from the Serbian capital to the border, demanding to be allowed to pass freely into Hungary.

Milivoje Pantovic
BIRN
Belgrade
The refugees and migrants marching to Serbia's border with Hungary. Photo: Anadolu

The refugees and migrants began their protest march on Tuesday to Serbia's border with Hungary, some 200 kilometres north of Belgrade, escorted by police to ensure security and prevent them from blocking traffic on the highway.

They are demanding that the border be opened to allow them to continue their journey towards Western Europe, as around 7,000 refugees and migrants are currently stuck in the country after fences were erected along the Hungarian-Serbian frontier to prevent them from passing through.

Some of them held up hand-written placards with slogans demanding: “Open the border please!”

Around 350 refugees have headed to Serbia's border with Hungary. Video: Kurir

“I request to Hungarian people, please open this border,” one of the protesters told Serbian media outlet Kurir.

“We will continue our demonstration against Hungarian policy if they don’t open this border,” another protester told Kurir.

The protest march began after a group of migrants gathered earlier on Tuesday in a park near Belgrade’s central bus station and began a rally that erupted into a brawl, Gordan Paunovic, a coordinator from the Belgrade-based B92 Fund, which is involved in the refugee aid effort, told BIRN. 

Paunovic said that the situation escalated after some of the refugees and migrants became tense and nervous.

“There was some unfortunate attempt by migrants to protest against the closing of the borders,” he said.

But he added that such protests were not new since large groups of people became stuck in Serbia as a result of Hungary’s strict border controls.

“People are sent to a refugee camp near Belgrade in Krnjaca; however, there is not enough room and most of the people here, at the bus station, are from Afghanistan and Pakistan so they cannot enter the camp,” he explained.

Some of the migrants in the park declined to join the march towards the border and chose to remain in central Belgrade.

“I do not see the point of it. We could just get in trouble with Hungarian police and I have heard that they are tough with refugees,” Mohammed Khan from Afghanistan told BIRN.

Muhammed Wajid also decided to stay in Belgrade, although some of his friends left for the border.

“I had a very bad trip through Bulgaria, I need rest and not to walk and confront the police on the border,” Wajid told BIRN.

“But yes, I wish that borders are open so that I could pass without ‘help’ of the smugglers and without fear of being beaten by the police,” he added.

...

The 7,000 refugees and migrants currently in Serbia face an uncertain future since the EU’s borders are closed to most of them.

People who are not from Iraq or Syria are classified as economic migrants and cannot hope to get asylum in the EU.

Serbia is also considering tightening control over its borders with Bulgaria and Macedonia in the hope that it will stem the flow of people along the ‘Balkan route’.

The Serbian authorities have said that there is a risk that most of the refugees and migrants could remain stuck in the country without any chance of continuing their journey to the EU.

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