Hungary clamped down on the rising tide of refugees from Syria Tuesday by declaring an emergency and slamming its border with Serbia shut to stem their flow.
New measures were imposed as hundreds of migrants amassed in a no-man’s land, where they pitched tents, shouted, “Open the border!” and, in some cases, refused wood and water in protest.
“I will sit here until they open the border. I cannot go back to Syria. Life in Syria is finished,” said a Kurd from Syria who gave his name as Bawer, Reuters reported.
The refugee crisis also claimed more lives Tuesday when at least 22 migrants — including four children — drowned and 249 were rescued when their Greece-bound boat sank off Turkey in the Aegean Sea, AFP reported.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said the razor-wire fence that the country completed along the Serbian border would be extended for “a reasonable distance” along the border with Romania.
Romanian and Serbian officials decried the severe measures.
“Raising a fence between two EU member states who are strategic partners is not a fair gesture from a political point of view, according to the European spirit,” the Romanian Foreign Ministry said.
“No one will be sent back. Serbia is not a concentration camp,” declared Aleksandar Vulin, minister for labor and social policy, The Telegraph reported. “You cannot send them to Serbia without their permission.”
Hungarian authorities arrested 174 people Tuesday under new laws — 60 of whom face possible terms of five years in prison for “cutting or damaging” the fence and 114 for illegal crossing, which carries a sentence of up to three years, AFP reported.
Out of 48 asylum requests made at the main Roszke crossing, Hungary rejected 16 within hours and 32 were being processed, Reuters reported.
“The message we want to send is: ‘Don’t come. This route will not take you to your destination,’ ” Gyorgy Bakondi, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief adviser, told AFP.
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