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Hungary fencing off refugees

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European nations are said to be struggling with the hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking asylum within the borders of European countries. However, those hundreds of thousands of refugees are just a small percentage of the actual refugee population on a global scale. Some countries have welcomed the asylum seekers as they are fleeing from war and poverty in their homeland. Other countries have shut their borders to refugees and have refused them asylum or at the minimum, have refused refugees a safe passage through the country.

On Thursday Croatian media reported that more than 5000 refugees entered Croatia from Serbia in the past 24 hours after Hungary sealed its border. A day before Hungarian police fired tear gas and water cannons at refugees who are demanding entry from Serbia.

Erno Simon, the spokesperson for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Hungary says the country has just closed its border for asylum seekers and has built a long and tall fence along the Hungarian border to prevent refugees and asylum seekers from entering the country.

“It (the Hungarian government) has announced that it is willing to accept asylum applications only at two transit zones along the border, but according to new laws Hungary will not accept any asylum applications from those coming from Serbia as Hungary now considers Serbia a safe country,” Simon explained.

This means that Hungary sees Serbia as a country that is safe enough for the refugees to stay in. Thus, in the Hungarian governments’ eyes, refugees do not need to travel further to places such as Hungary to seek refuge and asylum.

However, Simon explained that members at the UNHCR feel that those countries are not safe and refugees should not be sent back to those countries because there is no guarantee in those countries that asylum seekers can get international protection as their asylum system, according to Simon, is not functioning properly.

State of Emergency

On Tuesday, Hungary declared a state of emergency, and shut its border with Serbia leaving many desperate refugees stranded at the border. They have done so because of the large influx of people trying to enter its borders.

“Those who weren’t able to enter (the border) have been blocked by the three metre high razor wire fence,” Simon went further.

The Hungarian government has constructed a fence along the Hungarian-Serbian border to keep the refugees and asylum seekers out of the country, but Simon adds that those people who had the chance to enter Hungary were allowed to transit the country and leave towards Austria and onwards to the rest of Europe.

Since the border has been shut there have been clashes between riot police and those seeking to enter the borders of Hungary.

“The refugees are now stopped by the use of force,” Simon added.

The refugees and asylum seekers now face a new situation where they will have to find a different route to get to the other side of Hungary and then on to western Europe.

“After the clashes that took place yesterday most of the refugees on the Serbian side of the border are heading towards Croatia in the hope that they will still get access to the territory of Croatia and continue their journey and from there to Slovenia and then off to the western European countries,” Simon continued.

“Our colleagues and experts that have been working with us in Hungary are now travelling to Croatia because we expect that there will be a new emergency situation which needs our attention”.

“We hope that the Croatian government will be able to handle the situation in a better way than the Hungarian authorities,” Simon stated.

Simon adds that most of these refugees currently involved in the European refugee crisis have come from Syria, but more have also come from Afghanistan, Iraq and countries in Africa such as the Congo and Somalia.

Facing opposition from ex-communist states, EU ministers failed on Monday to break a deadlock over sharing responsibility for accepting some of the hundreds of thousands who have sought asylum in Europe. The refugees that have not yet managed to find asylum in a country are now left on border regions with minimal access to food and aid. After having suffered through war and having suffered through a perilous journey, they are still nowhere close to finding an escape to their dire situation. VOC (Umarah Hartley)


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