The main official border crossing point between Serbia and Hungary was closed to migrants on Tuesday, the UN’s refugee agency has confirmed.
At midnight, it shut the crossing near Roszke, leaving hundreds of migrants to queue with no apparent hope of entering.
“The border was shut and has yet to re-open,” UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told AFP from the border.
“Our staff do not have access, and the Hungarian authorities have not let us know about any schedule they have for re-opening the border,” he added.
First arrests under Hungary’s border crackdown
The first arrests have occurred under Hungary’s new border laws, according to Reuters.
Hungarian police detained nine Syrian and seven Afghan migrants early on Tuesday for illegally crossing the Serbian border fence, a police spokeswoman said.
Police spokeswoman Viktoria Csiszer-Kovacs said the migrants were suspected of lifting the razor wire fence to get into Hungary, which constitutes a crime under the new laws that took effect at midnight.
Under the new system Hungary has designated Serbia as a safe country so if asylum seekers have entered from Serbia without already applying for asylum there – they face automatic expulsion within eight days.
Hungarian MEP Gyorgy Schopflin has defended his country’s tough new border laws.
He said Hungary could not cope with the “flood” of people arriving. “It is this shock that I think the government is dealing with,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. He suggested that the new controls would help calm tension in Hungary. “The more the refugees come in this uncontrolled flood, the more the anti-refugee sentiments arises,” he said.
Schopflin, a member of the Fidesz the party founded by Hungary’s anti-immigration prime minister Viktor Orban, also rejected the idea of EU quotas for resettling refugees. He said: “We don’t know if we want the commission to impose obligatory quotas. Voluntary is another story.”
Schopflin said the “silent majority” of Europeans did not welcome more refugees despite the visible welcome made by many members of the public.
And he insisted that it was this public rejection that had forced Germany to reintroduce border controls. Schopflin also claimed that the number refugees arriving was a threat to security and some of Europe’s core values. He said: “If you have a large number of unassimilated recently-arrived migrants, they are potentially capable of destabilising law and order which of course puts the whole of democracy and liberalism in danger.”
The border crackdown in Hungary comes a day after the authorities reported a new record number of migrants. The Hungarian police said they intercepted 9,380 people entering Hungary on Monday, a sharp rise the previous record set the day before.
Welcome to live coverage of the continuing refugee crisis gripping Europe as laws to criminalise migrants in Hungary come into force.
Here’s a roundup of the latest developments:
- Hungary transported thousands of refugees by train dumped them on the border with Austria, ahead of the introduction of a tough new border crackdown, according to the UN’s refugee. Special trains took refugees on a four-hour journey from camps in southern Hungary directly to Austria, the UNHCR said.
- Frontier-free travel across Europe continues to unravel as countries re-established border controls in the face of the an unprecedented influx of migrants. Germany’s surprise decision to restore border controls on Sunday had a swift domino effect. Slovakia said it would impose controls on its borders with Hungary and Austria. The Netherlands announced it would make spot checks at its borders. Other EU states from Sweden to Poland said they were monitoring the situation to decide whether controls were needed.
- An emergency meeting of EU interior ministers failed to agree on a new system of binding quotas for refugees being shared across the EU. Instead they agreed to deny the right of asylum to innumerable refugees by funding and building camps for them in Africa and elsewhere outside the EU.
- The charity named by the UK government as the point of contact for families wishing to volunteer to host Syrian refugees has expressed anger that it was not consulted before Home Office on the plan guidance was published. Naccom, an umbrella group of small organisations that help destitute asylum seekers to find housing, said no one from the government had been in touch before the guidance was published, and stressed that the charity did not have the infrastructure to cope.
- Berlin’s disused Tempelhof airport is to temporarily house more than a thousand refugees as the search for large-scale emergency accommodation in the German capital grows more frantic. Two hangars at the abandoned airport, famous for its use by the western allies during the Berlin airlift in 1948, have been earmarked to house up to 1,200 refugees.
Updated at 7.43am BST