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Refugees hit with tear gas on the Hungary-Serbia border

Women and children were hurt has Hungarian police fired tear gas at the crowd [AFP]

Date of publication: 16 September, 2015

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Hundreds were injured on Wednesday afternoon, after Hungarian police fired tear gas and water cannon at a group of refugees protesting at the closure of the Hungary-Serbia border crossing.

 

Several hundred refugees have been hit with water cannon and tear gas by Hungarian police, after they protested at being unable to cross into the country from the Serbia.

Around 500 people are stuck on the border, after Hungary implemented tough new border controls on the Serbian border - including erecting a fence - to stop the inflow of refugees into the country.

AFP reported that around 300 from this crowd were involved in the protests, and children in the crowd were seen crying from the effects of the gas, which can cause respiratory problems. Helicoptors circled above.

Serbian police sent ambulances to treat the wounded.

Hungary's foreign minister Peter Szijjarto has requested Serbian authorities take action against protesters who threw missiles at Hungarian police.

Serbia has expressed "harshest possible protest" against Hungary for using tear gas at the border.

Croatia

Several dozen refugees entered Croatia from Serbia early on Wednesday, the first to enter the EU country after Hungary sealed its borders to thousands of people entering the bloc daily, an AFP correspondent has reported.

The group of mostly Syrian and Afghan men, women and children crossed the border - which was marked by nothing more than a stone - on Wednesday morning and were picked up by police as they walked across a field.

     As the [refugee] crisis is getting more complex every day I have to warn once again on the migrant wave and its possible social, economic and security implications - Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
From there they were taken to a police station in the nearby town of Tovarnik to be registered, police said, and tended to by medical staff.

Police said initially that a group of around 20 people entered the country. They said that other groups of similar size were on their way.

Until this week, the vast majority of refugees travelled up from Greece through Macedonia and Serbia into Hungary. From there most travelled onwards to western Europe, particularly Germany and Sweden, via Austria.

Border closure

But Hungary, which has seen more than 200,000 refugees enter this year, effectively sealed its southern border with Serbia on Tuesday by closing a gap in its newly-built border fence at an old railway line where many had entered by blocking it with a train wagon and barbed wire.

Hungary directed the refugees to official border crossing points, but after some people were allowed through, these too were blocked.

Any refugees entering Hungary illegally were liable to be jailed under new laws rushed through parliament by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government last week that came into effect on Tuesday.

The result was plain to see in statistics released by Hungarian police on Wednesday, with the number of people intercepted falling to just 367 from a record 9,380 the day before.

From Croatia, which is in the Europe Union but unlike Hungary not in the passport-free Schengen Zone, the refugees could then enter Schengen member Slovenia, or Hungary via its southwestern border.

Overnight there was a crisis meeting in Tovarnik on how to handle the influx, with food and tents organised for the refugees and Red Cross officials and volunteers also on the spot.

Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said on Tuesday that Croatia had developed a plan for dealing with the situation but declined to reveal details.

The refugees would be treated according to international conventions, he said, meaning that they would be registered first to see if they are entitled to help.

Croatia had some 6,000 border police deployed, whose numbers could be boosted, he added.

The country had said it was prepared to take in some 3,000 refugees in different type of facilities. Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said earlier this month that building fences and walls to protect borders was unacceptable.

The country has two centres for asylum seekers - one in the capital Zagreb and one 90 kilometres away in Kutina that can house some 700 people.

Emergency Meeting

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has called on Wenesday for a meeting of the country's security council on the refugee crisis

"As the [refugee] crisis is getting more complex every day I have to warn once again on the migrant wave and its possible social, economic and security implications.

"Thus it is necessary to call a session of the National Security Council over the issue as soon as possible," she said in a statement.

The session could be held either on Friday or next Tuesday.

Poland

There have been disagreements among member states about the allocation of refugees.

Poland says it is ready to accept a still-unspecified number of refugees over many months but wants their inflow to be controlled.

Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz made an impassioned appeal in Parliament on Wednesday for showing solidarity with those fleeing danger, saying the European Union is facing its greatest-ever humanitarian crisis. But she insisted that Poland must verify these are refugees seeking security, not just economic migrants seeking better jobs.

Interior Minister Teresa Piotrowska said 11 refugee centers can immediately offer 700 places and another 5,000 places can be quickly added at military facilities.

Warsaw has offered to take in 2,000 refugees but the EU wants it to handle 12,000.

UK

British Home Secretary Theresa May says Britain will welcome the first group of Syrian refugees allowed in under a new resettlement program within days.

She told Parliament on Wednesday the refugees will come from camps surrounding Syria and the government is pressing hard to organize more arrivals in the coming weeks.

Prime Minister David Cameron said last week Britain would take in up to 20,000 refugees in the next five years - a substantial expansion of its resettlement programme.

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