Hungary reopens Serbia border after migrant protest 

Hungary reopens Serbia border after migrant protest 

Hungarian police have reopened the Serbian border crossing at Kelebija that was closed to block a group of migrants who were demanding passage into the European Union.

The migrants were later taken by bus to reception centres in Serbia, said Svetlana Palic, spokeswoman for the Serbian commission for refugees.

Their claims would be processed like other asylum seekers, she added.

Last week around 60 people tried to cross at another checkpoint at night, prompting border guards to fire warning shots in the air, according to the authorities in the quasi-democratic country.

Many migrants in Serbia spend months in government camps and some attempt to cross its borders several times. They often rely on people-traffickers to reach Hungary or Croatia, which are both EU members.

Hungary has reported a rising number of attempts to cross the southern borders since December.

“The Tompa road border-crossing has been temporarily closed … as undisturbed crossing cannot be guaranteed due to a large group of migrants near the Serbian side,” said Hungarian police said on Thursday.

Recent changes to Hungarian immigration laws have made it nearly impossible for asylum seekers arriving at the Serbian border to qualify for protection in Hungary.

In 2018, Hungary approved 367 requests for asylum or similar protection.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has campaigned heavily on anti-migrant policies during the 2018 general election – although a large majority of migrants are hoping to pass through Hungary to reach western Europe. He was re-elected for a third consecutive term.

During the 2015 migrant crisis, the populist Orban had a razor-wire fence erected on the 175km frontier.

Hundreds of thousands journeyed through the Balkans in 2015-16, when approximately 1 million people entered Europe through Turkey.

A Serbian police officer told the media about 100 migrants had been peacefully gathered in no-man’s land between Serbia and Hungary.

Serbian public broadcaster RTS reported that there were a few hundred migrants, wrapped in blankets in freezing weather and heavy winds.

“We are peacefully protesting. We want to be allowed to continue our journey toward western Europe,” one man told HVG.hu.

They came from Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen and said they refused to head back to Serbia.

Placards read, “We are just refugees, not criminals”, “We are running from war, not hunger” and “Let us cross”. 

The Hungarian government said last week that more than 3,400 attempts were made during January to cross into Hungary through its southern borders, compared with several hundred per month during 2019.

 

 

 

Construction of barrier in Hungarian-Serbian border in 2015. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

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