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Hungarian border. Screenshot from YouTube

Migrants mass at Hungary’s border to test Orban’s resolve

A group of hundreds of migrants that recently set off for Hungary from Serbia has reached Hungary’s southern border at Tompa, Hungarian public television’s current affairs channel M1 reported on Thursday.

Published: February 10, 2020, 8:34 am

    M1’s on-site correspondent said there were some 400 to 500 migrants gathered at the border with more on the way, adding that the crowd was growing “more and more determined”. Early on Friday, Serbian authorities removed not 500, but 750 people from the crossing.

    The correspondent quoted the group’s organisers who said they would not tolerate “vandalism” and wanted to cross the border peacefully before moving on towards the EU. He said earlier that the migrant caravan had been organised in closed social media groups for weeks. Asked if the caravan would really be peaceful, the correspondent said: “They always start out that way but then we see how things escalate.” M1’s live broadcast showed migrants – actually it is a caravan of single men – marching in small groups with their personal belongings.

    Another correspondent near the Kelebia border crossing said there were also children among the migrants, adding that “they’re obviously the ones leading the march”. One of the migrants told M1 that they had no intention of staying in Hungary or Romania but rather wanted to reach the richer countries Europe. Most of them come from Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Morocco.

    According to a Serbian NGO, the Asylum Protection Centre, more than a 1 000 people in Serbia try to reach the EU every day. In January alone, Hungary reported 3 400 illegal entry attempts.

    Police have lined up on the Hungarian side of the border while on the other side of it a woman attempted to talk to the authorities in German, the correspondent said. The Bacs-Kiskun County police headquarters said in the afternoon that the Tompa border crossing has been closed temporarily.

    Subotica’s local television channel Pannon RTV reported that migrants gathered at the Kubekhaza-Rabe border crossing had also set off for the Tompa crossing. The migrants heading towards Kelebia told journalists they had heard that Hungary had opened its border to migrants there.

    Bus tickets to Subotica (Szabadka) were sold out at the Belgrade bus station two days in advance and buses carrying migrants were constantly arriving at the Subotica station from all over Serbia. Some carried signs declaring that they were not criminals, were hungry, that their children deserve to be educated and that their families were waiting for them in EU countries.

    Lajos Kosa, the head of parliament’s defence and law enforcement committee, told M1 earlier in the day that the migrant convoys were being organised to “test” the Hungarian border and see where it could be breached. Hungarian border patrol officers are monitoring the situation closely, he added.

    Meanwhile, international lawyer Norbert Toth told M1 that the aim of the migrant marches was to paint a picture in the European media of how “cruelly” Hungary was treating asylum seekers. “The laws are pretty clear,” Toth said. “The only way Hungary could allow these people in would be by violating its own laws and European Union laws. We’re talking about an external Schengen border, so the Schengen rules have to be observed.”

    Serbian authorities transported 750 people from the Kelebia border crossing station back to a reception centre in southern Serbia in the early hours of Friday. According to the TV channel, the migrants did not resist.

    According to some of the participants, later confirmed by Serbian defense minister Aleksandar Vulin, the march was organised through social media groups. Vulin added that he did not want the caravan to ruin the “good neighborly relations” between Serbia and Hungary.

    Vulin called the group “manipulated people brought here by false promises that someone would open the border for them” and accused “various non-governmental organisations” of inciting the men to head to the border with no assurance that they would be able to cross, Balkan Insight reported.

    He said that some groups of migrants in Serbia were being misled by fake footage and rumors about opening the Hungarian border. According to him, illegal immigrants should stay in the reception centers and should be grateful to Serbia for welcoming them. He also said that certain Middle-Eastern people did not want to be mixed in the shelters because of ethnic animosity.

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