Hungary launches border crackdown, says refugees risk expulsion
Updated: 2015-09-15 11:23
A migrant holds her baby as they wait to enter Hungary after the Hungarian police sealed the border with Serbia, near the village of Horgos, Serbia, September 14, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, one of Europe's most vociferous opponents of mass immigration, said he expected a high rate of deportations.
"In such a case, if someone is a refugee, we will ask them whether they have submitted an asylum request in Serbia. If they had not done so, given that Serbia is a safe country, they will be rejected," he was quoted as telling private broadcaster TV2.
An official of Orban's Fidesz party said authorities would rule on such asylum requests within eight days.
Orban has vowed zero tolerance on the EU's external border, framing the crisis as a battle for Europe's prosperity, identity and "Christian values".
The influx into Europe, by boat from North Africa across the Mediterranean or across Turkey and up the Balkan peninsula, has triggered discord and recrimination in the 28-nation EU, feeding anti-immigration sentiment.
On Monday, two decades of frontier-free travel across Europe unravelled as Austria and Slovakia followed Germany in re-establishing border controls to cope with the influx. Austria said it would dispatch armed forces to guard its eastern frontier with Hungary.
EU ministers meeting on Monday failed to break a deadlock over sharing out responsibility for some of the hundreds of thousands who have sought asylum in Europe this year.
Migrants were able to enter Hungary until midnight on Monday, in small groups queuing at an official pedestrian border crossing, but there was deep uncertainty over a possible bottleneck on the Serbian side on Tuesday as the crossing was closed overnight and thousands continued to stream through the Balkans from Greece, having arrived by boat and dinghy from Turkey.
Aleksandar Vulin, the Serbian government minister in charge of policy on migrants, said Serbia would not accept anyone being returned to Serbia having already entered Hungarian territory.
"That's no longer our responsibility," he told the Tanjug state news agency. "They are on Hungarian territory and I expect the Hungarian state to behave accordingly towards them."
Queuing to enter Hungary, 25-year-old Syrian civil engineering student Mohamed admitted he was nervous of what might come next.
"We don't know what will happen to us," he said. "I want to go to Germany, but they will first take our fingerprints and then they will tell us where to go."