Hungary to Deploy Army to Stop Migrants

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) -- Hungary on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in two of its southeastern counties in response to the migration crisis, a move that paves the way to deploy the army to the border with Serbia to stop the flow of migrants that has been entering the country.

The state of emergency gives authorities greater powers to deal with the crisis, allowing them to shut down roads and limit the working of public institutions. It also speeds up court processes for asylum-seekers.

Technically, parliament must still approve the deployment of the military. However, Associated Press reporters at the border have already spotted heavily armed military personnel with vehicles and dogs at the border in recent days.

The announcement on the state of emergency comes as tougher laws also came into effect on Tuesday aimed at preventing asylum-seekers from entering the country. The legislation makes it a crime to try to breach a razor-wire fence along the border with Serbia and also includes longer prison terms for convicted human traffickers.

Hungarian officials closed two of seven border crossings with Serbia Tuesday morning. The night before, officials deployed a boxcar covered with razor wire to close a key border crossing along a railroad track that had been the main entry point for migrants.

There were chaotic scenes at the main border crossing near Roszke, Hungary, as the Hungarians opened a small temporary office to process people on the edge of no man's land and crowds tried to squeeze inside. A first group of about 20 managed to get in, but thousands remained outside.

A group of migrants also blocked the main highway connecting Serbia and Hungary, saying they will refuse food and water until they are allowed to cross into Hungary. The sit-in protest is happening on the no man's land between Roszke and Horgos, Serbia, which is the main border crossing between the two countries.

Those who were lucky enough to make it into Hungary the day before were boarding buses. One Hungarian police officer said they were being sent directly to Austria.

People had dashed to make it into the country in recent days, hoping to reach Western Europe before it was too late. A record 9,380 migrants entered Hungary on Monday, beating the previous record of 5,809 set just a day earlier.

Some 200,000 migrants have entered Hungary so far in 2015, nearly all by walking across the southern border with Serbia. Almost all, however, simply transit Hungary on their way to Germany or other Western European nations.

Under the new laws, most migrants entering the country from Serbia can be turned away because that country is considered safe and could theoretically provide them asylum.

The new law also makes it a crime to damage the 4-meter (13-foot) razor-wire fence that Hungary has built on the 110-mile (175-kilometer) border with Serbia, giving police the power to detain anyone trying to breach it.

The state of emergency allows the government to mobilize the army — pending parliamentary approval next week — to help police with border control, and forces courts to prioritize cases involving migrants caught entering Hungary illegally. Police can enter and search homes where migrants who entered Hungary illegally are believed to be hiding.

Germany's interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, on Tuesday said he supports the idea of cutting European Union funding to countries that refuse to share the burden of hosting refugees.

Several EU countries, particularly in the former Eastern bloc, have rejected calls from Germany and the EU's executive Commission for mandatory quotas to spread refugees out among the 28-nation bloc.

De Maiziere told ZDF television that there needs to be discussion of how to exert pressure and that the countries rejecting quotas often receive significant amounts of EU funding.

He said that Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has suggested — "and I find that right" — that "we should talk about (them) getting less money from the structural funds."

(KA)