Tuesday 6 December 2016

Hungary takes refugee children away from parents as it declares state of emergency

Plans to extend 175 km razor wire border fence with Serbia eastwards towards Romania

David Kearns

Published 15/09/2015 | 15:42

An Afghan refugee woman holding her daughter in a camp in southern Hungary
An Afghan refugee woman holding her daughter in a camp in southern Hungary

Hungary is to split up families found illegally crossing its borders following state of emergency declarations in two of its southern counties.

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Any minor found without the correct documents will be taken from their parents and placed in "children's institutions".

Meanwhile the parents will be put in one of two holding areas called "transit zones" while they await trial for illegally crossing the border – a crime now punishable with a prison sentence.

The new law came into effect at midnight on Monday as authorities sealed a railway crossing point that had been used by tens of thousands of migrants.

Hundreds of migrants are thought to be stranded at the Serbia-Hungary border after the Hungarian government closed the frontier with a new razor-wire fence.

On Monday night, Hungarian military trucks cleared the makeshift refugee camp near the village of Roszke, as part of the government’s effort to tighten up border controls.

Figures showed that a record 7,437 people entered Hungary from Serbia on Monday.

Migrants stand in front of a barrier at the border with Hungary near the village of Horgos, Serbia Credit: Marko Djurica (REUTERS)
Migrants stand in front of a barrier at the border with Hungary near the village of Horgos, Serbia Credit: Marko Djurica (REUTERS)

Hungary's government has also started work on extending its 175 km border fence with Serbia eastwards towards Romania, in case migrants start taking other routes into its territory, its foreign minister said on Tuesday.

"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," said Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.

We're worried that borders soon to close again in Europe may leave refugees in legal limbo. Refugees we're meeting at...

Posted by UNHCR on Monday, 14 September 2015

The Government announced the plans as it said its two southern counties bordering Serbia were now officially in a state of emergency due to the sheer number of refugees entering the country.

The state of emergency gives police extra powers and would allow troop to be deployed if the country’s parliament approves.

The declarations give police the power to search homes without a warrant if they suspect migrants may be hiding there.

Also, courts will now be forced to prioritise cases involving people caught entering Hungary illegally as border crossing

Police said they had arrested 60 people accused of trying to breach a razor-wire fence on the border with Serbia

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Prime Minister Viktor Orban said this morning his Government had been forced to officially declare a state of emergency in the face of his “nation being engulfed”.

A government spokesman said: "It's the fundamental interest of everyone to put an end to the illegal immigration process.

"It is possible migrants will accumulate on the Serbian side of the border.

"Every single country where the migrants are crossing should take its part in the joint European efforts, including Serbia."

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Starting Tuesday, Hungary will start implementing tougher border measures that may see those who cross Hungary’s border illegally arrested.

On Monday night, Hungarian military trucks cleared the makeshift refugee camp near the village of Roszke, as part of the government’s effort to tighten up border controls.

Figures showed that a record 7,437 people entered Hungary from Serbia on Monday.

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Many of the refugees, who have been fleeing war zones including Syria, have been heading west to Germany, which said it expected a million migrants to enter the country this year - 200,000 more than previous estimates.

Over the weekend, Germany tightened controls along its border with Austria creating traffic jams at major crossings.

The European Commission confirmed on Tuesday it had received a notification from Austrian authorities of their intention to temporarily reintroduce border controls with Hungary, Italy, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The commission said Austria’s move, like that of Germany, was in keeping with the provisions of the Schengen agreement.

"The temporary reintroduction of border controls between Member States is an exceptional possibility explicitly foreseen in and regulated by the Schengen Borders Code, in case of a crisis situation.

"The current situation in Austria, prima facie, appears to be a situation covered by the rules," the Commission said.

The White House said Tuesday evening that it is up to European nations to determine the best way to deal with the flood of refugees fleeing violence in Syria, and said the United States remains committed to taking more refugees to help.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest did not directly comment on whether the United States supports mandatory quotas for refugees in Europe, saying it was up to countries to work together to find solutions.

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