[Hungary] On Monday, Hungary closed the last remaining hole in the 175-kilometer (109 mile) fence it has been built along the southern border to Serbia, one of the final stations on the Western Balkan route to Europe that has been the focal point in recent days of tens of thousands of refugees making their way from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and North Africa.
On Tuesday, a new law went into effect in Hungary making illegal border crossings an offense punishable by up to three years in jail. The developments came as Germany and Austria both imposed border controls to stem the massive influx of refugees on the final leg of the path to Western Europe.
Hungary’s closure of its border with Serbia has led to confusion and desperation among refugees who had hoped to cross into Europe there. For the moment, nobody is being let through at all and Hungary has declared a state of emergency in two counties bordering Serbia to allow for the deployment of the military to assist police there. As part of its new crackdown, Hungary says it has arrested 60 people for damaging the border fence or attempting to cross.
The scenes of chaos the border closure has generated are consistent with those that have played out in Hungary over much of the last couple of weeks. And the cause is clear. The country, under the leadership of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, is downright inhospitable — even hostile — toward refugees.
In the town of Röszke, on the Hungarian border to Serbia, police could be seen in recent days wearing face masks and rubber gloves as they herded together thousands of new arrivals into registration camps that looked very much like improvised jails. The facilities have tents without rain protection, a lack of blankets, little food and medicines and a dearth of portable toilets, not to mention frequent tensions between refugees and police. (read more)