Hungary has declared a state of emergency in two counties on the Serbia border as the influx of refugees continues to grow. The decision coincides with the introduction of tough laws to prevent refugees from entering the country by force. Earlier in the month, refugees walked over 130km across Hungary towards the Austrian border before the government provided buses for transport. However the government has stated that it will now transport refugees to asylum stations and failed asylum seekers will be transported back to the Serbia border as opposed to the Austrian border.
The move comes amidst growing differences between the EU states as to how to handle the crisis. Disagreements over quotas, notably from Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic, have prevented any uniform EU response. States are also imposing tighter border controls with Austria indicating that troops will be used to assist police in dealing with the refugee crisis and germany imposing temporary border controls citing logistical difficulties.
Why are there so many refugees?
The refugees are fleeing the conflict in Syria where a civil war rages between the Assad regime and revolutionary forces. According to Amnesty International, over 200,000 lives have been lost since the conflict in Syria began four years ago and 11 million people have been forced to flee their homes.
The conflict shows no end in sight with Russia sending forces to reinforce the regime following gains made by the revolutionary forces backed by Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Although the international community has stated that there is no room for Assad in Syria’s future, the presence of ISIS and other terrorist groups has resulted in a growing concern as to what happens should Assad fall.
The images that have emerged from Hungary of the treatment of the refugees behind razor fences, being penned in small spaces with food being thrown to them, and being told they would be transported to Austria only to be taken to asylum camps, evoked fierce criticism from human rights organisations with Kenneth Roth, Executive director of Human Rights Watch, stating that “It’s amazing, really. Certainly those images of the trains can’t help but conjure up nightmares of the Holocaust.” Although this is not a genocide, the crisis has evoked a soul searching across Europe as it seeks to reconcile its humanity with its desire to control economic migration.