Spotlight: Refugee crisis intensifies at Serbia, Hungary border

xinhuanet.com 18-Sep-2015

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People line up to get basic supply at the border area between Hungary and Serbia in Horgos, north of Serbia, on Sept. 16, 2015. The Serbian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday published an official note received from Hungary revealing two border crossings between the two countries will be closed for 30 days due to the escalating refugee crisis. (Xinhua/Wang Huijuan)

 

by Nemanja Cabric and Wang Huijuan

HORGOS, Serbia, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- While Serbia struggled to decrease the pressure of the escalating refugee crisis within its borders, Hungary earlier this week denied them entry, leaving thousands of people camping in the open field in the border zone far from their European dream.

Around 3,000 people from the Middle East and Africa have so far gathered to camp in front of two border crossings, closed since Monday midnight, between Hungary and Serbia which connect towns of Horgos on the Serbian side and Roeszke in Hungary.

The wide camping zone, surrounded by a 4-meter-high barb-wired fence, is now crowded with sick people and mothers carrying crying infants after a long journey. The camp is also full of angry men protesting that Hungary should open its doors and fulfil their human rights to seek asylum in Germany, or some other European or Scandinavian countries.

Serbia, now faced with the inflow of new migrants coming from its southern border and gathering up in Horgos at its northern border, receives the complete burden of the refugee crisis in the past few days alone.

Although most of the migrants have said they are determined to stay in the border zone and wait for the reopening of the two border crossings in Horgos, some have agreed to be transported to a nearby shelter in the town of Kanjiza that is able to receive hundreds of them.

HUMANITARIAN CRISIS ESCALATES

The improvised camping site in Horgos becomes a temporary home to more and more people who luckily still haven't experienced rain conditions, which will take place next week according to weather forecast.

Autumn sun overheated their bodies as they carried their children and bags to the barb-wired fence secured by heavy Hungarian police and military forces.

They were thirsty and hungry; they were in need of many supplies so they eagerly waited for some humanitarian organizations to jump in with their aid. Rows were created for every item, and volunteers tried to distribute the necessities fairly.

However, these people told Xinhua that they did not wish to stay in Serbia.

The long delay has created bitterness for people who have so far travelled for thousands of kilometers and are now on the last part of their journey.

Protests have risen in the meantime with people banging against the fence, shouting "Open the door" and "Thank you Serbia".

On Wednesday, Hungarian police reacted with tear gas and water cannons against those who became more violent. After the clash, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic condemned the violence and an attack on Serbian journalists whose equipment was damaged by the Hungarian police.

Riam, a young mother of two children from Syria, told Xinhua that she only wants to see a solution to the problem they have with Hungary so that her family could move to Belgium and find a job and new life.

"I don't know what will happen if they keep the border closed down. Our children are so tired and sick, but we are staying here," she said, holding a three-month-old infant with heavy sunburns on the face.

Abdullah, a young man from Baghdad, Iraq stood in front of the closed gate while protestors were slowly gathering up.

He hoped that he would reach Finland and join his uncle and friends, so he firmly decided not to leave the improvised border camp.

"I don't know (what I will do if the border stays closed) but I will stay here. I will stay, and all the people will stay here. People stay in front of this door, and together we will go through that door too," Abdullah said.

SERBIA STRUGGLES IN WAITING FOR EUROPE'S STRATEGY

On Tuesday, Aleksandar Vulin, Serbia's minister of labor and social policy, said during a visit to the camp that Serbia will try its best to help the refugees on its territory.

He added that Serbia is waiting for a strategy from the European Union (EU) to handle the crisis, so that it could react jointly with other countries.

Meanwhile in Horgos, minimal order at the border zone was kept thanks to the joint efforts by Serbian policemen and doctors, as well as numerous humanitarian organizations which distributed food, water and other necessities.

Those who have applied can be transported to nearby Kanjiza, but in reality refugees seldom decided to do so, preferring to watch for signs of change on the Hungarian side, which has announced that the border crossings will remain closed for the next 30 days.

Tamas Takac, a doctor from the general hospital in the city of Subotica, said nonstop medical services would be available to the refugees in the camp.

"The main problems are common colds, flues, wounds, cuts, various injuries and blisters because they have to walk a lot and have sore feet. It is really a problem for them. Fortunately we have some supplies here and can provide them with some medical assistance," Takac said.

Present at the camp was also the UNHCR with a mission to provide humanitarian aid and try to persuade people to leave the border zone and move to some other shelters.

Melita Sunjic, a senior public information officer of the UNHCR, said her agency did not want the improvised settlement in Horgos to become a permanent shelter for refugees, adding that she and her co-workers were providing them with necessities to prevent a humanitarian crisis.

"What we have seen so far is a large international problem but the response is always on one border, in one center, very piecemeal," Sunjic said.

"And we have been saying from the very beginning that this is not the right approach. We need a comprehensive strategy on the European level," she said.

Related:

GENEVA, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- The United Nation International Children Education Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday warned the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe will only worsen if greater efforts are not made to end the protracted conflict in Syria and address the humanitarian needs of the millions affected by the violence.

"Every Syrian I spoke to has told me that they would have stayed in their own country if they were able to feel safe, live in peace, and be treated with dignity," said Peter Salama, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

He said the refugees and migrants risk their lives and the lives of their children to flee to Europe because they have no other option and they see no future for themselves or for their children.