Hundreds of migrants, mostly from Afghanistan, hoping to reach Western Europe via Hungary, were trapped in “no-mans land” on Thursday after Hungary applied stricter immigration control measures on Tuesday.
In a sign that they mean business, Hungarian authorities this week returned 870 migrants to Serbia who did not have valid documentation, Serbian media reported on Thursday.
They were returned to Serbia under the new regulations imposed by Hungary by which all migrants found in the zone up to eight kilometres from the border with Serbia must be returned to the area behind the border fence that Hungary erected last summer.
Meanwhile, in an improvised camp in this “no-man’s land”, about 500 migrants are currently stuck and waiting to cross the border, TV reports said.
Hungarian authorities reportedly plan to send as many as 17,000 migrants back to Serbia who reached the country by transiting through Serbia.
The plan is to send them back in small groups. Serbia’s B92 TV station reported that on Wednesday about 190 migrants crossed backed into Serbia through “improvised passages in the Hungarian border wall”, not via the official Horgos border crossing.
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on Wednesday said that Serbia would not take the same course of action as neighbouring Hungary, however. “Serbia will not imitate Hungary and will not stage a ‘show’ on its borders,” he said in Belgrade.
He spoke after Gyorgy Bakondi, chief adviser to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, on Monday confirmed that any migrants caught inside Hungary near the borders with Serbia and Croatia would be sent back to the border.
Hungarian authorities on Wednesday deployed 6,000 additional police on the border with Serbia to stop the undocumented migrants from entering, media reported.
In addition to the extra police, Hungary is also using helicopters, armoured vehicles and dog handlers to locate migrants, Serbian national broadcaster RTS said.