As Hungary Shuts Down Border with Migrants

Middle East
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This live coverage is now ending for the day. Below is an extract from Patrick Kingsley’s report from Serbia:

Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since the second world war entered a new phase on Wednesday as hundreds of trapped refugees briefly broke through a border gate on the now-blocked Hungarian border, leading to frenzied clashes with Hungarian police, while hundreds of others forged a new route through Croatia.

Hungarian riot police fired teargas and water cannon over the border with Serbia, after frustrated crowds, who had gathered there in their thousands when Hungary closed its border on Tuesday, tried to burst through a gate that connects the two countries. Hungary’s actions were met with fury by the Serbian government, which said its northern neighbours had no right to fire into Serbian territory.

Tensions boiled over after thousands of refugees fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan began arriving at the Horgoš border crossing between Serbia and Hungary, in the hours after Budapest finally sealed it following months of threats to do so. But to many refugees, whose understanding of how to navigate Europe is largely gleaned from the more than 170,000 people who had successfully transited through Hungary since the start of the year, the move came as a shock.

Frustrations were then amplified further when a handful of Syrians who were subsequently allowed into Hungary to claim asylum had their applications rejected within minutes, seemingly without a proper assessment of their individual cases and backgrounds.

The tipping point came after an Iraqi refugee, one of 60 who was caught trying to breach the new border fence in separate incidents on Tuesday, was convicted in a specially convened Hungarian court. He was the first to be prosecuted under controversial new Hungarian laws enacted this week that criminalise the act of crossing the fence.