Protests Erupt in Hungary as 'Fortress Europe' Rises to Replace Open Borders

Protests have erupted near the Hungarian border with Serbia on Tuesday after the right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán fulfilled its promises to close Hungary’s borders and treat refugees attempting to cross into the country as criminals.

After sending army soldiers to bolster defense of newly-erected razor-lined fences, Orbán declared a state of emergency for southern portions of his country along the Serbian border early in the day. Reports indicate that thousands have already been turned away while those who attempted to pass through the fortified border have been arrested under a new criminal code.

According to the Associated Press, Hungarian officials closed two of seven border crossings with Serbia Tuesday morning. The night before, officials deployed a boxcar covered with razor wire to close a key border crossing along a railroad track that had been the main entry point for migrants.

Chaotic scenes were reported at the border as those who were refused entry into Hungary were also not allowed back into Serbia, with thousands forced to remain along a road connecting Roszke, Hungary and Horgos, Serbia—an area that has become a literal no man’s land for those seeking asylum in Europe.

Agence France-Presse offered this pair of videos taken over the last 24 hours:

“I don’t know what I will do,” said 40-year-old Riad from the Syrian city of Aleppo, who spoke with Reuters near the border. “I will wait to see. We have lost everything to reach this point.”

As AP reports, at least one group of asylum-seekers blocked the main highway connecting Serbia and Hungary and said they will refuse food and water until they are allowed to cross into Hungary on their way to western Europe.

From Reuters:


Journalist James Mates, with ITV News in Europe, reported how Serbian minister Aleksander Vulin demanded Hungarian border guards open the crossing, but was refused. Earlier Vulin was quoted as saying those caught in between the borders are no longer Serbia’s responsibility. “They are on Hungarian territory and I expect the Hungarian state to behave accordingly towards them,” he said.

On Monday, the emergency meeting of the European Commission failed to generate a conclusive agreement on the crisis, but critics were concerned that one of the key options tabled was ending the EU’s “open border” commitment and stripping asylum-seekers of their right to seek refuge in the country of their choosing. According to the Guardian:

Meanwhile, for those who did not make it into Hungary before the arbitrary deadline on Tuesday, an uncertain future now awaits.

As the Guardian’s foreign correspondent Patrick Kingsley reports from Hungary:

As refugee and migrant rights advocates reiterate their calls for European nations to respond to those fleeing wars and yearning for a better life with open arms, Hungary doubled-down on its closed-border policies on Tuesday by announcing preparations to extend its fortified fencing along the border it shares with Romania.

“We have made the decision to start preparatory works for the construction of a fence starting from the Hungarian-Serbian-Romanian border at a reasonable length should migration pressure shift in the direction of Romania,” Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.

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