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Iron curtain fears grow as Hungary orders army to use non-lethal force to seal borders against refugees

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Hungarian soldiers and workers are seen as they continue the construction work of a steel fence near the official border crossing at the Croatian-Hungarian border between the villages of Baranjsko Petrovo Selo, Croatia, and Beremend, Hungary, on September 22, 2015. The fence system including chicken wire and barb-wire is in place at the border area to close the official border crossing in village of Beremend thus preventing further influx of Middle-Eastern migrants into Hungary. Hungary's parliament gave on September 21 the army and police sweeping new powers to keep migrants out as populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned that Europe was being "overrun". AFP PHOTO / ELVIS BARUKCICELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/Getty Images

Hungarian soldiers and workers are seen as they continue the construction work of a steel fence near the official border crossing at the Croatian-Hungarian border between the villages of Baranjsko Petrovo Selo, Croatia, and Beremend, Hungary, on September 22, 2015. The fence system including chicken wire and barb-wire is in place at the border area to close the official border crossing in village of Beremend thus preventing further influx of Middle-Eastern migrants into Hungary. Hungary's parliament gave on September 21 the army and police sweeping new powers to keep migrants out as populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned that Europe was being "overrun". AFP PHOTO / ELVIS BARUKCICELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/Getty Images

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Hungarian soldiers and workers are seen as they continue the construction work of a steel fence near the official border crossing at the Croatian-Hungarian border between the villages of Baranjsko Petrovo Selo, Croatia, and Beremend, Hungary, on September 22, 2015. The fence system including chicken wire and barb-wire is in place at the border area to close the official border crossing in village of Beremend thus preventing further influx of Middle-Eastern migrants into Hungary. Hungary's parliament gave on September 21 the army and police sweeping new powers to keep migrants out as populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned that Europe was being "overrun". AFP PHOTO / ELVIS BARUKCICELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/Getty Images

Hungary is accused of creating a new ‘iron curtain’ as it grants its military the right to use non-lethal force to prevent refugees crossing its borders.

The country’s parliament authorised the government to deploy the army to help handle a wave of migrants ahead of a meeting of European interior ministers to draw up plans to tackle the largest migration crisis since World War Two.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban told parliament police were unable to secure all Hungary's frontiers - which include outer borders of the EU's passport-free Schengen zone - without help from the army.

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BARANJSKO PETROVO SELO, CROATIA - SEPTEMBER 21:  Hungarian soldiers erect a fence at a border point between Croatia and Hungary where migrants are being  transported by bus through to Austria on September 21, 2105 in Baranjsko Petrovo Selo,Croatia. Thousands are migrants have being transported by bus and train on to Hungary and Austria as European leaders are set to push for a unified response to the migrant crisis.  (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

BARANJSKO PETROVO SELO, CROATIA - SEPTEMBER 21: Hungarian soldiers erect a fence at a border point between Croatia and Hungary where migrants are being transported by bus through to Austria on September 21, 2105 in Baranjsko Petrovo Selo,Croatia. Thousands are migrants have being transported by bus and train on to Hungary and Austria as European leaders are set to push for a unified response to the migrant crisis. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

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BARANJSKO PETROVO SELO, CROATIA - SEPTEMBER 21: Hungarian soldiers erect a fence at a border point between Croatia and Hungary where migrants are being transported by bus through to Austria on September 21, 2105 in Baranjsko Petrovo Selo,Croatia. Thousands are migrants have being transported by bus and train on to Hungary and Austria as European leaders are set to push for a unified response to the migrant crisis. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

"We can defend the Serbian stretch of the border," he said, adding that fortifications on that 175 km (110 mile)-long section were working better than expected.

Hungary has built a fence on the Serbian border and deployed regular patrols, leading to a drastic drop of migrants crossing it.

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Hungarian soldiers work on a fence that is being built at the border with Croatia, near the village of Beremend, Hungary, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015. Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban said that millions of migrants are "laying siege" to the borders of his country and of Europe, putting the continent in danger. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Hungarian soldiers work on a fence that is being built at the border with Croatia, near the village of Beremend, Hungary, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015. Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban said that millions of migrants are "laying siege" to the borders of his country and of Europe, putting the continent in danger. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

AP

Hungarian soldiers work on a fence that is being built at the border with Croatia, near the village of Beremend, Hungary, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015. Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban said that millions of migrants are "laying siege" to the borders of his country and of Europe, putting the continent in danger. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Instead, thousands have entered Croatia and Zagreb has waved them on to Hungary again.

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Migrants wait in a holding area just metres across from the Croatian border after walking the last few kilometres from Serbia to Croatia Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Migrants wait in a holding area just metres across from the Croatian border after walking the last few kilometres from Serbia to Croatia Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

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Migrants wait in a holding area just metres across from the Croatian border after walking the last few kilometres from Serbia to Croatia Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

"We can defend the Croatian stretch but to do that we need the army to patrol together with the police," Mr Orban said.

He added Hungary would act on its own until the EU found common ground on how to handle the flow of migrants.

"Europe is rich but weak. That is the most dangerous combination possible. The result ... is catastrophic. Because Europe cannot defend its external borders, internal borders are shut again.

“We need to rethink many European inventions, institutions and treaties. But until we do we cannot sit idle. Until the EU states act as one, member states will be forced to go out of their way to fend off this brutal threat."

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OPATOVAC, CROATIA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Croatian riot police officers control the access to a refugee camp as more migrants arrive from the Serbian border on September 22, 2015 in Opatovac, Croatia. Croatia has built a refugee camp to control the transit of migrants to Hungary with a capacity of 4,000 people. Thousands of migrants have arrived in Austria over the weekend with more en-route from Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia. Politicians across the European Union are to hold meetings on the refugee crisis with EU interior ministers meeting tomorrow and EU leaders attending an extraordinary summit on Wednesday.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

OPATOVAC, CROATIA - SEPTEMBER 22: Croatian riot police officers control the access to a refugee camp as more migrants arrive from the Serbian border on September 22, 2015 in Opatovac, Croatia. Croatia has built a refugee camp to control the transit of migrants to Hungary with a capacity of 4,000 people. Thousands of migrants have arrived in Austria over the weekend with more en-route from Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia. Politicians across the European Union are to hold meetings on the refugee crisis with EU interior ministers meeting tomorrow and EU leaders attending an extraordinary summit on Wednesday. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

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OPATOVAC, CROATIA - SEPTEMBER 22: Croatian riot police officers control the access to a refugee camp as more migrants arrive from the Serbian border on September 22, 2015 in Opatovac, Croatia. Croatia has built a refugee camp to control the transit of migrants to Hungary with a capacity of 4,000 people. Thousands of migrants have arrived in Austria over the weekend with more en-route from Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia. Politicians across the European Union are to hold meetings on the refugee crisis with EU interior ministers meeting tomorrow and EU leaders attending an extraordinary summit on Wednesday. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Serbia has threatened to retaliate against Croatia after it halted all Serbian cargo traffic coming across their joint border.

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Migrants wait in a holding area just metres across the Croatian after walking the last few kilometres from Serbia to Croatia on September 21, 2015 in Sid, Serbia. Thousands of migrants have arrived in Austria over the weekend with more en-route from Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia. Politicians across the European Union are to hold meetings on the refugee crisis with EU interior ministers meeting tomorrow and EU leaders attending an extraordinary summit on September 23.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Migrants wait in a holding area just metres across the Croatian after walking the last few kilometres from Serbia to Croatia on September 21, 2015 in Sid, Serbia. Thousands of migrants have arrived in Austria over the weekend with more en-route from Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia. Politicians across the European Union are to hold meetings on the refugee crisis with EU interior ministers meeting tomorrow and EU leaders attending an extraordinary summit on September 23. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

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Migrants wait in a holding area just metres across the Croatian after walking the last few kilometres from Serbia to Croatia on September 21, 2015 in Sid, Serbia. Thousands of migrants have arrived in Austria over the weekend with more en-route from Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia. Politicians across the European Union are to hold meetings on the refugee crisis with EU interior ministers meeting tomorrow and EU leaders attending an extraordinary summit on September 23. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Croatia has already closed all but one road border crossing with Serbia and on early Monday halted trucks from entering on the highway between Belgrade and Zagreb, one of Serbia's two main arteries to the west.

The blockage created a 12-km queue of trucks on the Serbian side.

The Croatian government has cited security reasons but local media say Zagreb is trying to put pressure on Belgrade to slow the flow of migrants over their border and send more north to Hungary or east to Romania.

Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic told RTL television late on Monday: "I think it is perfectly clear that what we are seeing is organised transport of migrants directly to Croatia (from Serbia)."

"There is no rational, logical explanation for stopping the flow of goods, of cargo traffic, on one of the main arteries," Serbian Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic told Serbian state television.

"Closing that route is inflicting millions in damage to Serbian business and the state every day," he said.

If Croatia does not lift the blockade, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said late on Monday, "due to violations of numerous bilateral and international agreements we will be forced to protect our country by legal means."

"That will hit their country far harder than their measures are hurting ours," he said.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged European leaders to ensure refugees and migrants are treated properly as “many of them have endured arduous journeys to flee persecution, conflict and human rights abuses”.

 

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