Hungary sends 2,100 police officers to control border

Tear gas fired at refugees in brief border clash as UN calls on European nations to develop unified response to crisis.

Hungary has announced it will deploy 2,100 police officers to help control its border with Serbia and consider sending its military as record numbers of refugees try to enter the state trying to claim asylum.

Hungary builds border fence to bar immigrants

The Hungarian police chief’s announcement on Wednesday came amid scenes of brief violence on the country’s border with Serbia.

Television footage showed Hungarian officers firing tear gas at refugees trying to overcome the barriers and enter the EU-member state.

Police rounded up around 300-400 people and were addressing them through loud speakers, the Reuters news agency reported.

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from the Serbian capital Belgrade, said the violence broke out after hundreds of refugees refused to be fingerprinted.

“A large group of people was told that they had to give their fingerprints. When they give their fingerprints that means that’s the point where the asylum application is made and they can’t leave that country,” Simmons said.

“What people want to do is leave Hungary and move on to more affluent EU states, such as Germany, Holland and the UK.”

On Wednesday, Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs stated the government has discussed how the army could be used to help secure the country’s southern border.

Kovacs said any decision to use the army must be decided by parliament, which is set to discuss the issue next week.

“Hungary’s government and national security cabinet … have discussed the question of how the army could be used to help protect Hungary’s border and the EU’s border,” Kovacs said.

A total of 2,093 refugees, the highest daily total to date, crossed the border near the Hungarian town of Roszke on Monday, a police statement said. 

Thousands of Syrian refugees are trying to cross the border everyday, leading to a call by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to come up with a new strategy to solve the crisis.

The agency said that all European countries and the EU must act together to provide support to countries such as Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia whose capacities were overstretched. It also called for the equitable redistribution of refugees across the EU.

“It’s vital that these people are treated humanely, also that essential assistance is provided, not just by responding to their basic needs but respecting also their dignity, their human rights as asylum seekers and migrants,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday. 

International obligations

Fleming appealed to governments in the EU to make sure that they handled the situation with sensitivity and abided by their international obligations.

“While understanding legitimate concerns facing countries in the region – obviously this is an unexpected large number of people – we do appeal to the governments involved to implement border management measures with humanity and also in accordance with international obligations.”

Her comments came after a record number of refugees streamed into EU member Hungary from Serbia, just days before Hungary completes a border fence.

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The UNHCR’s calls for reforms came a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande called for a unified system for the right to asylum, and the setting up of reception centres in Greece and Italy.

The issue is set to top the agenda at a summit of Balkan leaders on Thursday, which Merkel will attend.

Germany, a country that has taken a leading role in welcoming refugees in the EU, is now advising officials who process their arrivals not to send people from Syria back to other European countries.

Refugees rest in a park beside the main railway and bus station after arriving in Belgrade, Serbia [EPA]
Refugees rest in a park beside the main railway and bus station after arriving in Belgrade, Serbia [EPA]
Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies