Wednesday 25 April 2018

The thousands desperate to get through the gap in the fence

Hungarian police arrest a Syrian migrant family after they entered Hungary at the border with Serbia, near Roszke
Hungarian police arrest a Syrian migrant family after they entered Hungary at the border with Serbia, near Roszke
A Syrian migrant carries children as he walks along a railway track to cross the Serbian border with Hungary near the village of Horgos

Nick Squires

Footsore, exhausted and sweating under a hot sun, they tramped down the railway line in an almost unbroken column. Some were hobbling on crutches, suffering from gunshot wounds that they said were inflicted by Syrian soldiers, while many carried babies in their arms and toddlers on their shoulders.

More than 3,000 refugees and migrants poured into the EU yesterday across Hungary's border with Serbia. The previous day, Hungarian police detained more than 3,200 - the highest number in a single day. Officials said they expected the numbers to swell further in coming days.

"A week ago we were receiving 1,500 people a day. Since then it has doubled. Next week? Who knows? But we are expecting more," said Brigitta Safar, of the Hungarian Red Cross, as green army tents were erected near the border in anticipation of the influx.

Despite the razor wire fence that Hungary has built along its 110-mile border with Serbia, refugees are still able to cross with ease.

I walked a few miles of the journey taken by the migrants. The route was littered with detritus - nappies and sanitary pads, empty bottles, biscuit wrappers and crisp packets.

Babies' clothing lay amid tall strands of cane grass, along with empty jars of baby food, bags of dates and tins of half-eaten beans. Some refugees used sticks to lift up the coils of wire and scramble underneath - a border guard demonstrated how easily it could be done - but at a crossing point near the village of Roszke that was not necessary: hundreds trudged across the frontier along a railway line.

One family had seven children under the age of six. A girl of about five cried as her mother implored her to keep walking. "We are very tired, we need to sleep. I came from Turkey by sea to a Greek island and from there to Athens, then through Macedonia and Serbia," said Mohamed (27), an English student from Damascus.

"I don't want to stay in Hungary. My biggest wish is to travel to England because I hear that the people there are very kind and very good."

Hassan Kadee (28), a teacher, was with a young man on crutches. "He is my brother, Khalid. He was shot by Assad's soldiers. In Syria, there is death everywhere."

The police stood aside as the refugees - mostly Syrian - tramped down the tracks. A few hundred yards beyond the border, the refugees were corralled in a field by police and gradually sent on to buses that took them to a camp for registration.

Many, however, were anxious to avoid that, as under the rule that stipulates that refugees seek asylum in the EU country where they are first registered, they would be forced to stay in Hungary. Small groups were biding their time in the shade of plum trees and vineyards on the side of the railway, waiting for darkness to slip across the border.

Many are middle-class people who are sent money by their families back home. Mohamad Alhriri, 35, a lawyer, was one of a group of Syrian men who planned to cross the frontier at night and find a taxi to take them to Budapest.

They reckon on paying €250 each for the two-hour journey - a high price, but they are willing to pay if it gets them to Vienna, then on to Munich, rather than languishing in a Hungarian migrant centre.

Earlier, it had looked as if the government was ready to bring in the army. Police fired tear gas at the main processing centre and the government announced 2,000 "border hunters" to reduce the number of people entering.

The police fired tear gas at 200 migrants, who became agitated when they were informed that they were to have their fingerprints taken.

The mainly Syrian and Afghan migrants fear that, in line with EU rules, if they are stopped later elsewhere in the union they will be returned to Hungary as their official point of entry.

"If I get fingerprinted in Hungary, I don't go to Germany," explained Abdul Majed, a 25-year-old language student from Syria.

"We make fingerprints in Germany, so you will be a refugee in Germany, not in Hungary."

Exhausted, the families trudged along the road through Serbia, hoping to get across the border into Europe, then continue north into the wealthier parts of the continent - such as Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands.

"It's been very, very difficult," said Odei, a Syrian migrant from Deraa, once he reached Hungary.

"We were here from yesterday. We are very hungry. We are so tired."

The government, led by the right-wing prime minister Viktor Orban, has begun construction of a fence, built out of three layers of razor wire, along the border with Serbia in an attempt to stem the flow of arrivals.

Mr Orban has ordered that an 11ft-high fence be built along the 110-mile border. It is expected to be completed in the coming days. But it is hardly a formidable barrier. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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