HUNGARY: At least 1,000 migrants crossed by train and bus northward into Hungary from Croatia today under the watch of Hungarian security forces sworn to keep them out – a snapshot of the confusion and contradiction of a divided Europe.
Even as Hungary’s army rushed to erect a fence along parts of its frontier with Croatia, a fellow member of the European Union, Hungarian soldiers and police did not prevent the migrants from crossing the border, first in their hundreds by bus and then more than 1,000 by train.
Their transfer came just hours after Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said that – with the inflow into his country topping 13,000 in little more than two days – matters were out of control and that his government could no longer register or accommodate the new arrivals. They would be waved on, he said.
A Hungarian police spokesman said the migrants were being taken to two Hungarian registration points in Szentgotthard and Vamosszabadi — both close to the Austrian border.
Hungary denied coordinating the move with Croatia, while Austria denied coordinating it with Hungary, reinforcing the sense of chaos prevailing in Europe as it grapples with the biggest migration crisis in decades.
Only on Wednesday, Hungary had fired volleys of tear gas and water cannon to keep out stone-throwing migrants on its border with Serbia, the second day of a crackdown that right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban says is designed to defend “Christian” Europe from hundreds of thousands of mainly Muslim migrants.
Thousands of migrants switched their route, streaming into Croatia, and then on Friday into Hungary and Slovenia in what critics say is becoming a desperate game of human ping-pong.
At the Hungarian border village of Beremend, police and soldiers at first lined up, backed with two army Humvees mounted with machine guns, to block the path of more than 10 busloads of migrants arriving at the border from Croatia.
Then, they ushered them onto Hungarian buses, saying they would be taken for registration. Later, a train packed with over 1,000 migrants crossed the border and stopped at the Hungarian town of Magyarboly, where they were directed by police and soldiers onto another train on an adjacent platform.
“They will have to get off at Hegyeshalom anyway,” a police officer was overheard telling a colleague, in reference to a town on Hungary’s border with Austria. The officer denied any knowledge of the train’s destination when asked by a reporter.
A spokesman for Austria’s Interior Ministry denied there had been any coordination with Hungary on the migrants’ eventual passage to Vienna.
Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic told reporters near the point where the migrants crossed that they were simply being returned to Europe’s Schengen zone of border-free travel, most of them having first entered in Greece but then leaving the EU to travel north through the Balkans.
“Those who came from the Schengen zone now go back again to the Schengen zone,” he said. Croatia and Serbia are not members of the zone, while Hungary is.
Hungarian police said another “significant” group had been detained at the Gyekenyes crossing point from Croatia, some 150 kilometres northwest of Beremend, and would also be registered.
Hungary accused its southern neighbour of aiding and abetting a crime.
“Instead of helping people, Croatia is encouraging masses and masses of people to commit a criminal offence – illegal crossing of the border is a criminal offence,” Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told reporters in the Serbian capital Belgrade.