Despair, confusion for migrants hitting closed Hungary border

migrantThere was despair and confusion for the hundreds of migrants arriving at the Hungarian border on Monday to discover it had been closed just a few hours before.

Refugees on the Serbian side say Hungary sealed its border at midnight, leaving many to camp out in the hope it would re-open, or start wandering back into Serbia.

“I arrived at one in the morning — I really don’t have much luck,” says Bachir, a 17-year-old Afghan hoping to reach Norway or Sweden.

Around 50 tents brought by humanitarian workers have already sprung up in front of the border crossing, which has a phalanx of police, including elite and riot officers, blocking the path.

A few Serbian police watch the scene from a distance, their government continuing to take a low profile in the crisis.

Hungary is providing minimal information on what migrants should do, leaving aid workers and journalists to answer their questions.

“Why are they doing this?” asks a desperate-looking Afghan woman, clutching her young son by the hand. A volunteer can only smile and shrug, and pass her a bottle of water.

Although Hungary’s government blamed Serbia for failing to control the flow of people, and said it would start processing people at the border, AFP reporters at the main crossing point in Roszke said police were installing large metal panels to further seal the border.

– Shifting the problem –

Until Monday, thousands of migrants had been flowing through a gap in Hungary’s new barbed-wire fence just a couple of kilometres further down, bringing them into a chaotic transit camp from which police transported them to registration camps or the Austrian border.

Now that Hungary has successfully shifted the problem elsewhere, the camp is almost empty as volunteers shift their attention into Serbia.

Several tonnes of aid — blankets, clothes and tents — that arrived from well-wishers and agencies across Europe are piled up unused in massive storage tents.

“This place was crazy just a few days ago. Now we must decide where to go next and how to move all these things,” said Masuri Sagat, a Red Cross worker packing down their tents.

On the Serbian side, migrants spent the night and morning working their way along the fence, hoping to find gaps or holes.

But the thousands wanting to pass through Hungary to northern Europe face not only the new border fence, but also tough new laws that allow police to arrest and even jail illegal entrants.

AFP reporters in the border town of Roszke saw a family of Iraqis detained by police at the side of the road.

The government says it has already arrested 60 people for cutting through the fence and is launching criminal procedures against them.

Further down the road, a smaller border crossing was still open to locals, but no migrants were getting through.

Bashir, the Afghan, remains determined.

“I didn’t want to die for nothing in Afghanistan,” he says. “If I die, I want it to be because I was trying to achieve something.”

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