Border-free Europe unravels in migrant crisis

Updated: 2015-09-14 22:06


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Border-free Europe unravels in migrant crisis

The shoes of human rights activists lie on the ground during a protest outside the headquarters of the Spanish Interior Ministry to demand European leaders to fulfill their commitments towards refugees in Madrid, Spain, September 14, 2015.[Photo/Agencies]


Hungary's hardline right-wing government had warned that new policies due to take effect on Tuesday would halt the flow across its frontier, the main land route the EU. That led to an unprecedented rush to cross before the deadline.

Hungarian authorities did not appear to register migrants who arrived on Monday, transferring them instead by bus to a railway station in the town of Roszke, where police directed them onto special trains to the border with Austria. At least two trains of around 15 carriages departed, and aid workers said several more had left on Sunday.

Soldiers cradled automatic weapons by a metal fence that the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban says will run the length of the frontier with Serbia by October.

"We heard the Hungarians will close the border on September 15 so we had to hurry from Greece," 24-year-old engineering student Amer Abudalabi, from the Syrian capital Damascus, said shortly before crossing the border from Serbia.

"We have not slept since Saturday morning... I'm so tired. I won't believe it when we cross into Hungary."

From Tuesday, Hungarian authorities say they will receive and start processing asylum requests at the border with Serbia, and transport many of those who apply to camps elsewhere in the country. Those who refuse to cooperate will be held at the border and possibly expelled, while those who try to cross evading police will face arrest.

Workers fixed razor wire to a train wagon positioned to block the railway line that crosses the border and that has become the main crossing point for migrants.

Orban, one of the loudest critics of immigration he calls a threat to Europe's Christian heritage, drafted hundreds more police officers to the border on Monday, telling them to be humane but "uncompromising".

"You will meet with people who have been deceived. You will be met with temper and aggression," he told them.

In Serbia, buses took migrants from a makeshift camp in the northern town of Kanjiza to around a kilometre from the border. Discarded blankets and shoes littered the area.

In the south, on the border with Macedonia, aid workers said authorities had sped up migration procedures and a train was taking many directly to the Hungarian border, bypassing Belgrade, where a city park previously inundated with migrants was rapidly emptying as they headed for the border.