Refugee and migrant crisis: Hungary finishes border fence, slams Croatia after train incident

Migrants wait to board a train at the train station in Tovarnik, Croatia September 19, 2015 © Stoyan Nenov
Budapest has finished work on a 41 km border fence amid a spat with its neighbor, Croatia, which Hungary accused of violating its sovereignty after Croatia let a train carrying a thousand asylum seekers into the country.

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Croatia’s claim that the train, which transferred thousands of migrants and refugees to the Hungarian border followed a bilateral agreement, was condemned as a “lie in the face” of Hungary and the EU, Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Saturday.

“Instead of honestly making provision for the immigrants, it sent them straight to Hungary. What kind of European solidarity is this?” Szijjarto questioned at a press-conference

“Once again, Hungary has been left in the lurch. We will defend the European Union, the borders of the Schengen zone, and we will defend Hungary in accordance with European rules.”

His resentment of the “violation of Hungary's sovereignty” followed a Saturday statement by Croatia’s Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, who called Hungarian border policy “incomprehensible”, referring to the fact that most migrants chose the country as a gateway to the EU and were marching further on.

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Only the “crazy idea” of army deployment could seal the border, “and even if that were possible under the constitution – and it is not – it means killing people,” Milanovic said, adding that the current situation is “a humanitarian crisis but not a disaster”.

However, he admitted that Zagreb “forced” Hungary to take in a trainload of people the day before simply “by sending the migrants there”, without any agreement at the highest level.

Early Saturday morning, Hungary completed the construction of a 41-kilometer border fence, which will separate the country from Croatia with barbed wire, reinforcing the natural barrier of the Drava River.

Meanwhile, the Czech military has promised to send additional 2,500 troops to assist police serving on its border, TASS news agency reported on Saturday. Chief of staff Josef Becvar said that within 48 hours the army could deploy 900 soldiers “to help deal with the refugee crisis.”

On Friday, Czech Interior Minister Milan Cjovanec announced a joint drill involving the police and military “to test the ability of the forces to cooperate in crisis situations,” referring to a possible increase in the number of migrants, AP reported.

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Europe has been facing an ever-toughening asylum seeker crisis since this spring, as hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have fled their homes in search of better security and life prospects. On Saturday, Austrian police reported that 6,700 people arrived from Hungary, and Slovenian police said that over 1,200 people crossed the border with Croatia on the same day. All in all, over 300,000 refugees have crossed the sea since the beginning of the year, according to the UN.

On Saturday afternoon, in the Mediterranean Sea, off the Libyan coast, about 400 refugees were rescued by the German navy, DPA news agency reported. In June, Germany sent two frigates on a mission in the southern Mediterranean, and the lives of nearly 2,000 people have been saved since then.

At the beginning of September, the UN refugee agency UNHCR estimated the number of people expected to come to Europe across the Mediterranean both this year and next to stand at over 850,000 people.