Hungarian police fire tear gas at migrants at Serbia border

Hungarian police fire tear gas at migrants at Serbia border

ROSZKE, Hungary - Reuters
Hungarian police fire tear gas at migrants at Serbia border

A man stands opposite Hungarian riot police using water cannon to push back refugees at the Hungarian border with Serbia near the town of Horgos on September 16, 2015. AFP photo

Riot police fired water cannons and tear gas at migrants demanding to be let through Hungary’s newly shut EU frontier on Sept. 16, while refugees at other Balkan borders clambered through cornfields in search of new routes. 

Hungary’s decision to shut the EU’s external border with Serbia this week was the most forceful attempt yet by a European country to close off the unprecedented flow of refugees and economic migrants overwhelming the bloc. It has left thousands of migrants scattered across the Balkan peninsula seeking alternate ways to reach the EU. 

Helmeted Hungarian riot police backed by armored vehicles took up positions at the now-barricaded border crossing with Serbia, where male migrant youths pelted them with stones, demanding to be allowed through. 

The border has until now been the main route for migrants, who mainly arrive first by dinghy in Greece and then trek across the Balkan peninsula to reach the EU’s frontier-free Schengen zone, most bound for Germany. 

Migrants scattered through Balkan countries said they were searching for other routes, possibly through Croatia or Romania, both of which are in the EU though not in the Schengen zone. 

“We have passed too much to give up now. If not Hungary, we will have to find another way. Most probably Croatia and from there we will see,” said 43-year-old Mehmed from Damascus, while holding his 3-year-old daughter after crossing the border north into Macedonia from Greece. 

Croatia said it would send landmine experts to its Serbian border to identify minefields left on the frontier from the Balkan wars of the 1990s, the last time hundreds of thousands of displaced people marched across Europe. 

The goal for most is Germany, which cut off trains from Austria to slow the flow of arrivals. Tens of thousands of migrants have reached Austria in recent days, rushing to cross before Hungary fulfilled its plan to shut the frontier. Austria said it would impose new border controls on its frontier with Slovenia, along the likely new route from Croatia. 

Hungary has already thrown up a 3.5-meter-high fence along nearly the entire border with Serbia, and engineers and soldiers were marking a path on Sept. 16 to extend the barrier along the border with Romania.