Hungarian police use tear gas against refugees

By bne IntelliNews September 17, 2015

bne IntelliNews -

 

Hungarian riot police used tear gas and water cannons to force back migrants who attacked the new razor-wire fence at the border with Serbia on September 16.

Tension at the country’s southern border with Serbia escalated a day after Hungary sealed the border, closing a popular migration route to Western Europe. The move left thousands of migrants stranded on the Serbian territory,  forcing some to take an alternative route via Croatia.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto called upon Serbian authorities to act immediately and stop the migrants from attacking the Hungarian police guarding the frontier. “These are not peaceful migrants” he said. “This is aggressive mass migration.”

In recent months Hungary has become a frontline entry point to the EU’s passport-free zone with at least 200,000 migrants crossing its borders since the start of the year. To stem the influx of migrants, Budapest enacted on September 15 new tougher laws that make illegal border crossings a criminal offense punishable by up to three years in jail.. The country also declared a state of emergency in two counties along the border with Serbia in a move that would give extra power to security forces to crack down on those trying to enter the country illegally.

The populist rightwing government of Viktor Orban has already come under intense criticism for its hard stance on migrants and especially for its decision to build a four-metre high fence along the 175-km border with Serbia. The fence might be extended eastward along the border with Romania should migration pressure shifts in that direction, the government said recently. In an interview for Die Presse and Die Welt on September 16, Orban said Hungary also plans to extend its fence on certain stretches of its border with Croatia.

Orban, who has successfully relied on the anti-migration rhetoric to stem a slide in support for his government, claims the influx of Muslim refugees poses a threat to Europe’s Christian identity.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed shock and alarm at the treatment of refugees and migrants at Hungary's border with Serbia. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, urged Budapest to ensure "unimpeded access" for people fleeing wars and persecution, the BBC reported.

“UNHCR was especially shocked and saddened to witness Syrian refugees, including families with children who have already suffered so much, being prevented from entering the EU with water cannons and tear gas”, it said in a statement.

The UNHCR is particularly concerned about a series of restrictive measures recently introduced by Hungary and the way they are being implemented, resulting in extremely limited access for refugees at the border. New legislation includes deterrence measures, some contrary to international law and European jurisprudence when applied to asylum-seekers and refugees.

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