Hundreds of immigrants tried to break through a gate at the border between Hungary and Serbia as Hungarian police responded with water cannons and tear gas on September 16. “Open! Open! Open!” the immigrants chanted. Police officers formed a cordon to stop them from entering. Above their head roared military helicopters.
Gangs of mostly young men set piles of wood and rubbish alight, while others hurled stones and other objects at security personnel. Reminiscent of the Palestinian so-called Intifada that pitched Arabs against Israelis on the West Bank some years ago, many of the rioters concealed their faces with scarves and bandanas.
The foreign minister of Hungary said that police were responding to the unruly behavior by immigrants thronging on the Serbian side of the shared border. Foreign Minister Peter Szijarto said that officer are “under a brutal attack.” Live coverage of the gate shows that evening is closing in and rioting subsided. Representatives of the media are reporting from the scene.
"Twenty police officers have been injured and ambulance services have just taken two children (to hospital) who were injured after being thrown over the security fence," said Hungarian security official Gyorgy Bakondi in a television interview. "We will definitely restore the fence and strengthen the fence, and protect Hungary's security with all legal means."
Live television coverage of the incident showed that the rubbish piles were still smoking as police and protesters milled near the gate between Serbia and Hungary. The immigrants complain that the fence built by Hungary over the A5 highway is thwarting them in their efforts to reach western Europe.
Hungary has decided to seal its borders, and to also press criminal charges against migrants seeking to enter the country. Slovakia is accepting Christian immigrants only, even while its citizens are wary of accepting anyone. The prime minister of Croatia, Zoran Milanovic, has promised that refugees may enter his country but only to pass through. By the afternoon hours on September 16, only 320 refugees entered Croatia, according to the United Nations. Croatia’s Right Party leader, Anto Dapic, said that while he supports giving “temporary aid to women and children,” he is not as tolerant of “young men who look like they just left the gym.”
Romania’s Prime Minister Victor Ponta has severely criticized Hungary’s response to the crisis. He said, “Fences, dogs, police, weapons: This looks like the 1930s,” he was quoted as saying by the Romanian news service Mediafax.
On the European territory of Turkey, Edirne, refugees are filling bus stations in the hope of entering Greece. Some appear to want to then to go to Serbia and thence Slovenia, thereby bypassing Hungary. On the Greek island of Kos, near the shore of Turkey, refugees have landed in droves, while there has been rioting in some of the refugee reception centers in recent days. Buses are being diverted from Hungary to Croatia.
Over the last two days, Hungary has arrested 519 illegal immigrants and charged them with damaging a border fence. So far, Hungarian authorities have opened 46 criminal cases, while suspects were to appear in court on September 16. Among those charged are four Iraqis, one of whom was convicted and deported.
Immigrants continue to flock to Horgos, the Serbian border town next to the border with Hungary. They sought food and temporary shelter. Only eleven toilets and two water faucets have been provided. The temperature rose into the high 80s.
There are concerns that since Hungary has closed its borders, migrants going to Croatia could pass through those areas along the Hungarian/Croatian border where they would encounter thousands of deadly landmines that were emplaced during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Croatian demining experts are on the scene to begin freeing the area of the materiel.
On September 15, Serbia's labor minister Aleksandar Vulin denounced Hungary for its alleged refusal to honor its agreements to allow refugees passage.
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