Hungary scrambles to confront migrant influx
Updated: 2015-08-27 09:16
Syrian migrants sit in a bus to register in a camp after they crossed the Hungarian-Serbian border near Roszke, Hungary August 25, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]
ROSZKE, Hungary - Hungary made plans on Wednesday to reinforce its southern border with helicopters, mounted police and dogs, and was also considering using the army as record numbers of migrants, many of them Syrian refugees, passed through coils of razor-wire into Europe.
In Germany, which expects to receive 800,000 of them this year, Chancellor Angela Merkel was heckled by dozens of protesters as she visited an eastern town where violent anti-refugee protests erupted at the weekend.
The surge in migrants seeking refuge from conflict or poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia has confronted Europe with its worst refugee crisis since World War Two, stirring social tensions and testing the resources and solidarity of the 28-nation European Union.
A record 2,533 mainly Syrians, Afghans and Pakistanis crossed from Serbia into EU member Hungary on Tuesday, climbing over or squirreling under a razor-wire barrier into the hands of an over-stretched police force that struggled to fingerprint and process them. Authorities said over 140,000 had been caught entering so far this year.
Unrest flared briefly at a crowded reception centre in the border region of Roszke, with tear gas fired by police.
Another 1,300 were detained on Wednesday morning. More will have passed unnoticed, walking through gaps in a border fence being built by Hungary in what critics say is a futile attempt to keep them out. They packed a train station in the capital, Budapest, hundreds of men, women and children sleeping or sitting on the floor in a designated "transit zone" for migrants.
Almost all hope to reach the more affluent countries of northern and western Europe such as Germany and Sweden.
Visiting the eastern German town of Heidenau, where violence broke out during weekend protests by far-right militants against the arrival of around 250 refugees, Merkel said xenophobia would not be tolerated. About 50 protesters booed, whistled and waved signs that read "Volksverraeter" (traitor), a slogan adopted by the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement earlier this year.
"There is no tolerance for those people who question the dignity of others, no tolerance for those who are not willing to help where legal and human help is required," Merkel told reporters and local people. "The more people who make that clear ... the stronger we will be."