Hungary razor wire no hurdle for hardened migrants

A Syrian migrant family enters Hungary at the border with Serbia near Roszke.
A Syrian migrant family enters Hungary at the border with Serbia near Roszke. REUTERS

ROSZKE, Hungary (AFP) - Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has vaunted the razor-wire fence being laid along the Serbian border as the only answer to stop tens of thousands of migrants from getting in.

But a visit by AFP made clear that for people hardened by war in their home countries, treacherous journeys across the Mediterranean and trekking hundreds of miles, Orban is going to have to try harder.

"We fear neither the Hungarian police, nor the fence," Nasreen, a 29-year-old Syrian woman, told AFP after scrambling through the fence from Serbia and heading off into the safety of the European Union.

"It's nothing compared to what we have been through in Syria," she said.

"The country has been destroyed, we have faced bombs, assassinations, blood, and deaths on a daily basis."

Clad in jumpers despite the late-summer heat, she says the extra layers will help once the nights get colder as they go north from Hungary towards the holy grail of Germany or Sweden.

A 25 year-old IT expert from Iraq, trying to make it to Belgium where he has family, was similarly unfazed by the three rolls of razor wire.

"I don't care about fences or about police. I have money, I will find a taxi," he said, not wanting to give his name.

On Wednesday alone, a record 3,000 people were registered as crossing through by the Hungarian authorities, including 700 children.

Just days before, the daily average was between 1,000 and 1,500 - a huge leap from the 250-500 registered in the first half of the year.

So far this year, more than 140,000 have crossed.

At the border, it almost seems as if the Hungarian troops, which are building the fence, have left out their long measuring rods deliberately.

The refugees use them to lift up the lower part of the fence, which is a lot safer than trying to cut through the nasty-looking rolls of wire.

On Thursday morning, a steady flow of mostly Syrian and Afghan families clambered under the razor-wire in clear sight near the border town of Roszke.

As the wire is held up by one man, a child gets her hair stuck in the barbs, screaming until her mother frees her, with the young family dashing into the adjacent forest.

In the rush to make it through, pushchairs, rucksacks, blankets, even clothes have been abandoned at regular intervals along the border.

GERMANY!

None of the refugees who spoke to AFP said they wanted to stay in Hungary despite it being in the European Union. Instead, they want to travel on to western Europe.

"Germany! Germany!" cries an Afghan teenager aged around 15 in a filthy pink pullover and jeans who is roasting a cob of corn over a makeshift fire.

With piercing blue eyes that contrast with his sunburnt skin after weeks on the road, these are practically the only words of English he knows.

"I want to go to Germany, there are jobs opportunities there, the health care is good and accessible to everyone," said Kasim, a 35 year-old maths teacher from Iraq.

He has been travelling for several months now, via Egypt where he couldn't find work, and Turkey where he says he met only hostility.

"So I decided to move to Europe," he said.

The majority want to avoid the police, fearing their fingerprints will be taken, and that they might end up being expelled from their desired destination - typically Germany.

"Will they send us back if we refuse to give our fingerprints?" asks Ilar from Bangladesh.

They are even given tips on the Serbian side.

A few hundred metres away, a young Serbian policewoman gives directions to refugees, pointing to where families can cross without risk of injury via the still-open railway line.

Once across, the Hungarian police shepherd them toward a roadside meeting point beside the maize fields, where buses roll up to take them to a nearby registration centre, on the next short leg of their tortuous road north.