Hungary accepts 70 migrants on first day of closed border

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Hungary accepted 70 migrants on Tuesday, just a handful of the thousands amassing on its southern border with Serbia, a government official said on state television.

The official, government adviser Gyeorgy Bakondi, made the announcement.

Hungary declared a state of emergency earlier in the day in two counties along its border with Serbia over the influx of refugees, closed a main border crossing and said it will build a fence on its frontier with Romania.

The move drew a sharp reaction from Serbia. “Just yesterday they said they will seal the border to trespassing, but not to those willing to apply for asylum. As you see, this is totally different,” Serbian Welfare Minister Aleksandar Vulin said.

Shortly after Hungary closed the main crossing on the Belgrade-Budapest highway, Vulin urged Hungary to open the border and allow passage to migrants who “want to or don’t want to seek asylum.”

“Without cooperation with the Hungarian government, without the opening of this border, we will be unable to solve this problem,” Vulin told state news agency Tanjug as the crowd on the Serbian side of the border grew to more than 1,000.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto meanwhile announced that Budapest will extend the fence further east, along the border with Romania, to prevent migrants going around it.

Declaring the state of emergency paves the way for parliament to allow the army to reinforce police along the border, as new measures to crackdown on refugees go into effect. The parliament is due to debate the additional measures on September 21.

Earlier in the day, Hungarian authorities used a boxcar fitted with razor wire to block a major entry point on the border with Serbia.

Over the last two weeks, tens of thousands of migrants and refugees, most fleeing war in Syria and Iraq, passed through the crossing on a railroad near Roszke, using the last gap in a fence that Hungary built along its 175-kilometre border with Serbia.

Hungary said it registered 9,380 illegal crossings on Monday, nearly doubling the previous record from Sunday and roughly three times the daily average of recent weeks, as people rushed to make it into the country before the fence closed and new laws kicked in.

Orban’s right-wing government has approved measures to arrest and jail migrants who breach the fence.

Some 60 people have been arrested so far, local reports said. Trespassers face up to three years in prison, while those who cut the fence as much as five.

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