Hungarian police have fired tear gas to subdue hundreds of people fighting each other and throwing rocks in an overcrowded camp for migrants in the eastern city of Debrecen, authorities have said.

Rioting migrants also set fire to rubbish and a policeman was injured on Monday when a rock struck him in the head, Interior Ministry spokesman Attila Samu said.

"The conflict broke out after a Turkish migrant seized the Quran of an Afghan migrant and [because] allegedly there were 200 euros of cash inside the Koran," Samu told the Reuters news agency.

"This set off the initial conflict, in which subsequently hundreds were embroiled. They broke out of the camp, occupied a road, pelted rocks and set fire to garbage containers. Police then forced them back into the camp."

The camp, which was designed to hold about 823 people but is now crammed with 1,655, is located on the outskirts of Debrecen, 230km east of the capital Budapest.

Hungary, a landlocked central European country of 10 million people, is in the European Union's Schengen visa-free travel zone and thus an attractive destination for tens of thousands of migrants entering Europe through the Balkans from the Middle East and Africa. Most then move on to western Europe.

High number of refugees

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government has started constructing of a 175km fence along its border with Serbia, angering its southern neighbour.

The government has also sent the public questionnaires linking immigration to "terrorism" and launched a nationwide poster campaign urging migrants not to break laws or take jobs from Hungarians.

In a visit to Debrecen last month, Orban said the camp should be closed for good.

Police spokesman Denes Dobo said police had arrested one Turkish migrant. "Right now there is calm in the camp, police are upholding public order and security," he said.

Samu said an extra 154 policemen were scrambled to the scene from nearby districts to restore order. They will remain on site as long as necessary, Samu added.

'Boat is full'

Earlier this month, Hungary indefinitely suspended the application of a key EU asylum rule, which requires claims by migrants to be processed in the EU country they first arrive in.

Zoltan Kovacs, the Hungarian government spokesman, said "the boat is full," referring to the recent influx of migrants. 

"We all wish for a European solution, but we need to protect Hungarian interests and our populaton," he said.

The EU has asked Hungary to urgently clarify its suspension of the rule.

In the first six months of this year, the number of migrants crossing into the EU via Hungary's border with Serbia exceeded 66,000, overtaking even the number arriving in Italy.

The increase in migrants is fuelling public hostility to the EU's open borders and to the EU project as a whole.

EU summit talks last week over how to cope with the problem exposed sharp differences between
Mediterranean states, which have borne the brunt of the influx, and poorer, former Communist central and east European countries, who fear costly disruptions from proposals to make them take in a share of those in transit.

Source: Agencies