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Hungary: Migrants Crossing Border from Serbia Are an ‘Armed Mob’

Hungarian officials upped security efforts on the Serbian border in an effort to stop migrants from crossing into Hungarian territory.

A migrant girl cries after being hit by pepper spray and tear gas after hungarian police repelled an attempt by migrants break the border post gate and pull down the razor wire fence on September 16, 2015 in Horgos, Serbia. Hungary has introduced tough new laws to administer the influx of migrants  and has also declared a state of emergency in two of it's counties close to the border. The new laws have created a dead end for migrants arriving at the Horgos frontier post resulting in clashes with migrants and hungarian police.
A migrant girl cries after being hit by pepper spray and tear gas after hungarian police repelled an attempt by migrants break the border post gate and pull down the razor wire fence on September 16, 2015 in Horgos, Serbia. Hungary has introduced tough new laws to administer the influx of migrants and has also declared a state of emergency in two of it's counties close to the border. The new laws have created a dead end for migrants arriving at the Horgos frontier post resulting in clashes with migrants and hungarian police.

Migrants and refugees who tried to cross into Hungary from Serbia Wednesday were greeted with tear gas, water cannons, pepper spray, and handcuffs after Hungarian officials deployed security forces to stop them.

Zoltan Kovacs, a spokesman for the Hungarian government, told reporters that the group of bedraggled men, women, and children– most asylum-seekers fleeing civil war in Syria — was an “armed mob of illegal migrants.” He also claimed that “these people are using kids as a human shield.”

Hungarian forces arrested more than 500 people this week and hastily launched criminal proceedings against them for illegal immigration. By the end of the day Wednesday, two Iraqi men had already been found guilty.  One person arrested Wednesday was labeled a “terrorist” by Hungarian authorities. Meanwhile, hundreds of others, including Hungarian police officers, reportedly sought medical attention after being injured in the border chaos, which escalated after sections of the fence were knocked down.

The United Nations’ refugee agency condemned the Hungarian response, saying in a statement Wednesday that the agency “was especially shocked and saddened to witness Syrian refugees, including families with children who have already suffered so much, being prevented from entering the EU with water cannon and tear gas.”

And Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told CNN Wednesday that conditions at the border are a “huge embarrassment for Serbia.”

One of his top ministers claimed Serbia had pleaded with Hungary not to use the tear gas in Serbian territory.

Hungary, which borders Serbia, has become a popular travel route for migrants hoping to reach Germany, where many of them hope to qualify for asylum. Earlier this month, the EU Commission suggested a new plan for relocating the migrants staying in Hungary, Greece, and Italy. But a number of countries, including Hungary, were opposed to the deal that would force them to accept some refugees. Germany, on the other hand, now expects to receive more than 1 million refugees this year.

Hundreds of those who did not brave the chaotic Hungarian border chose instead to travel on alternate routes to Croatia, prompting fears those walking on foot would step on the estimated 60,000 land mines left over from the 1990s Balkans Wars. But the migrants were received more warmly there, where Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said they would be welcome to stay or would be helped to their final destination. De-mining experts were also sent out to identify the minefields in an attempt to mitigate any disasters.

“We are ready to accept these people, regardless of their religion and the color of their skin, and direct them to the destinations where they wish to go, Germany and Scandinavia,” Milanovic told parliament Wednesday.

Photo Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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