Dispatch from no man’s land just south of the Hungarian border

September 15, 2015

Asylum seekers  blocked from entering Hungary by barbed wire and three meter high chain link fence
Asylum seekers blocked from entering Hungary by razor wire and three meter high chain link fence

Throughout the day busloads of refugees arrived at the Hungarian-Serbian border, only to find their way blocked. Meanwhile, Serbian border towns such as Horgos and Subotica are hard-pressed to cope with growing numbers of desperate asylum seekers with no place to go.  In Horgos volunteers distributed water and blankets to refugees but did not appear to be distributing food.

Former Hungarian prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány held an impromptu press conference early Tuesday afternoon from the no man’s land—a narrow stretch of land near Röszke, Hungary, between the Serbian border and three-meter-tall chain-link fence and razor wire erected inside Hungary only a few meters from the border.

Former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány
Former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány  Photo: Ben Novak

Separated from members of the press by the two fences, Gyurcsány criticized the Hungarian government for erecting the fence and forcing residents of Horgos – a predominantly ethnic Hungarian community – to fend for themselves in dealing with the refugee crisis.

Gyurcsány also condemned the government for creating inhumane conditions for asylum seekers and for modifying procedures for processing asylum requests so as to virtually ensure the vast majority of applications submitted by those arriving through Serbia are rejected, regardless of country of origin.

Shortly after Gyurcsány’s statements, Jobbik parliamentarian Dániel Z. Kárpát appeared on the scene. The far-right MP, who approached the fence from inside Hungary, attempted to hold a press conference but was heckled by activists.

“Say it loud and say it clear! Refugees are welcome here!” shouted the activists, interrupting the start of Kárpát’s press conference.

Jobbik MP Dániel Z. Kárpát (far left) and German activist (far right)
A German activist (right) heckles Jobbik MP Dániel Z. Kárpát (far left).  Photo: Ben Novak

“It’s a fascist border in Europe,” one of the activists shouted at Kárpát.

The MP told the Budapest Beacon: “It’s outrageous that in our homeland, where the freedom of expression also exists, people claiming to be liberals won’t allow us to hold our press conference. The constant ‘fascist’ name-calling leads me to suspect [the activists] are liberals.”

The hecklers were later led away by police guarding the border fence.

With the Hungary-Serbia border crossing near Röszke sealed off, hundreds of asylum seekers have been left to fend for themselves.

A child standing on the Serbian side of the sealed-off border with Hungary.
A child standing on the Serbian side of the sealed-off border with Hungary.  Photo: Ben Novak

Barred from entering Hungary though the blocked-off crossing at Röszke, a 17-year-old woman from Damascus – who had initially fled to Jordan – said it had taken her three weeks to make it as far as the Hungarian-Serbian border.

“It’s sad and unfair,” she said when asked what she thought.

“I’m seventeen.  I would like to choose what to study at the university in Germany next year,” she said.

The young woman plans on staying at the border crossing until it is opened.

“We can’t leave. We don’t have any place to live,” she said.

She said that tonight would be the first time since embarking on her journey to Europe that she would “sleep under the trees by the side of the road”.