Hungarian police close main entry point for migrants

Calin Neacsu and Eric Randolph
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Migrants are diverted by Hungarian police near the village of Roszke on September 14, 2015, as an open area of the border with Serbia is closed off by police

Migrants are diverted by Hungarian police near the village of Roszke on September 14, 2015, as an open area of the border with Serbia is closed off by police (AFP Photo/Attila Kisbenedek)

Röszke (Hungary) (AFP) - Hungarian police on Monday closed off the main crossing point for thousands of migrants entering from Serbia every day, AFP journalists saw.

Around 20 police were fencing off a 40-metre (-yard) gap in a razor-wire barrier along the border by a railway line as other officers blocked the track.

A growing group of several dozen migrants including many children, some in pushchairs, were stuck on the Serbian side of the border, with several women crying.

There were also a number of soldiers present as well as half a dozen mounted police. The fence is around two and a half metres (eight feet) high and will include barbed wire once completed.

The migrants were being directed to the official border crossing point around two kilometres (1.6 miles) to the west where there was a heavy police presence and helicopters overhead.

Some were being let through at the official crossing point. There was a big cheer as the first couple were allowed to enter.

Two protestors, a Czech and a German, were meanwhile arrested on the Hungarian border after sitting on the railway line.

EU member Hungary is on the front line of Europe's migrant crisis.

Almost 200,000 people travelling up from Greece through the western Balkans have entered the country this year, most of them seeking to go to northern Europe.

On Sunday, police said a record 5,809 people had entered, smashing the previous day's record of 4,330, despite coils of razorwire being unrolled along the Serbian border.

By around midday (1000 GMT) on Monday another 5,353 people had been intercepted, police said.

The sharp increase came ahead of tough laws coming into force Tuesday under which people entering Hungary illegally can be jailed for up to three years.

Hungary is also building a four-metre high (13-feet) fence all along its 175-kilometre (110-mile) border with Serbia that it intends to complete by the end of October or early November.

- Bound for Germany -

The refugees and migrants, mostly Syrians, Afghans and Pakistanis, seek to travel onwards to Austria and then western Europe, particularly Germany and Sweden.

On Sunday, however, Germany reimposed border controls. Austria and Slovakia said Monday that they will follow suit, with Vienna planning to deploy around 2,200 military personnel.

Hungary's treatment of migrants has caused unease both domestically and abroad.

Volunteers have warned that sanitary conditions at camps housing the migrants are poor, with insufficient toilets and running water meaning there is a risk of disease epidemics.

On several occasions migrants frustrated at waiting for hours at collection points have broken through police lines, leading to scuffles.

Two weeks ago the main international train station at Keleti was closed to migrants, turning a transit zone underneath into a makeshift refugee camp.

Hungary finally relented and allowed people to leave by train last weekend after protests and after more than a thousand refugees and migrants started walking from Budapest in the direction of Austria.

Earlier Monday, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency said that on Monday Hungary effectively stopped registering migrants crossing the border and transporting them straight to the Austrian frontier.

Rights group Migration Aid said meanwhile that about 8,000 people were transported from the Hungarian village of Roszke near the Serbian border in the early hours of Monday morning, in an apparent attempt to empty Hungary of refugees and migrants.

Prime Minister Viktor "Orban's plan is going well, Hungary is now almost empty of migrants, all the camps are almost empty, everyone is going to the border from the camps, there are maybe a few thousand left in the entire country," spokeswoman Zsuzsanna Zsohar said.

Orban has blamed the situation on Greece and Germany and says that the new arrivals are not refugees but economic migrants since they came from safe camps on Syria's borders.

Europe's leaders are "living in a dream world" with "no clue" about the dangers and scale of the problem, he said Friday, warning that Muslims will soon be in the majority in Europe.