Hungary fires teargas at 200 migrants

A child being handed across a barbed wire fence as Syrian migrants try to enter Hungary from areas near the country's border with Serbia.
A child being handed across a barbed wire fence as Syrian migrants try to enter Hungary from areas near the country's border with Serbia.PHOTO: REUTERS

Separately, at least 40 bodies found in the hold of boat off Libya

ROSZKE (Hungary) • Hungarian security forces yesterday fired teargas to prevent around 200 migrants from trying to leave the country's main refugee processing centre at Roszke near the southern border with Serbia.

Officers intervened after the migrants tried to leave the centre without being fingerprinted, an official said. The incident came as Hungary revealed plans to send the army, mounted police and dogs to its southern border to confront record numbers of migrants streaming into the European Union, and dozens of migrants were found dead in a boat off Libya.

Police said a record 2,533 migrants were caught entering Hungary from Serbia on Tuesday. A further 1,300 had been detained by yesterday. More are likely to have gone across unnoticed, walking through gaps in an unfinished barrier to a Europe experiencing its worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Hungary, which is part of Europe's Schengen passport-free travel zone, is building a fence along its 175-km border with Serbia in a bid to keep the migrants out.

Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs has said the Parliament would debate next week whether to deploy the army. "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," Mr Kovacs said.

CALLING IN THE TROOPS

Hungary's government and national security Cabinet ... discussed the question of how the army could be used to help protect Hungary's border and the EU's border.

GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN ZOLTAN KOVACS

The authorities said more than 140,000 migrants had entered Hungary from Serbia so far this year. The numbers travelling through the Balkans have soared in recent weeks, with 3,000 crossing into Macedonia daily from Greece, then onwards to Serbia and beyond.

Hungary's police chief commissioner Karoly Papp said the force was readying six special border patrol units of an initial 2,106 officers, equipped with helicopters, horses and dogs, to be sent in, depending on the Serbian border situation.

The special reinforcements, called "border hunters", will patrol the length of the border, supporting the more than 1,000 regular police already working to intercept illegal immigrants, he said.

Serbia has said around 10,000 migrants are passing through the country at any one time.

"The situation will get worse, when winter arrives. We're getting ready to look after double that number," Serbian Premier Aleksandar Vucic told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

Further illustrating the severity of the situation, the bodies of at least 40 people were found yesterday in the hold of a migrant boat off the coast of Libya, Sweden's coast guard said.

The macabre discovery was made after the Swedish ship Poseidon was sent to the aid of a stricken vessel by the Italian coastguard.

Swedish coastguard spokesman Mattias Lindholm said the Poseidon had been able to save 439 people on the wooden boat.

"Unfortunately there were around 40 people dead in the hold," he said. "The bodies are being transferred to the Poseidon."

Emergency calls for help have been received so far from 10 boats in difficulty around 50km from the coast of Libya, the Italian side said. Five rescue operations have been concluded, but others are ongoing.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline 'Hungary fires teargas at 200 migrants'. Print Edition | Subscribe