Hungarian police have launched tear gas and water cannons at asylum seekers attempting to cross the border from Serbia.
Protests at a closed crossing point near the Serbian town of Horgos, escalated into violence on Wednesday, with some asylum seekers throwing bottles and stones at riot police on the other side of the border.
Police responded by firing tear gas and water cannons at the crowds, causing many to turn and flee; according to the BBC’s James Reynolds, children and families were caught up in the gas.
“I ran back with the crowd, with the sting of tear gas in my eyes,” he said. “Several refugees pointed me towards a father carrying a baby – both had been caught up in the tear gas.”
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Antonio Guterres, has expressed his dismay at the Hungarian police’s tactics.
“UNHCR was especially shocked and saddened to witness Syrian refugees, including families with children who have already suffered so much, being prevented from entering the EU with water cannon and tear gas,” the refugee agency said in a statement. The UNHCR has called on Hungary to allow “unimpeded access” for refugees.
Hungary has defended its actions, however, with Foreign Minister Peter Sijjarto calling the refugees’ actions “aggressive” and “unacceptable”.
“The Hungarian police’s duty is to protect Hungary from the entry of such violent persons,” Sijjarto said.
Hungarian police detained 29 asylum seekers following the border clashes on Wednesday, including one they claim is an “identified terrorist”.
The Eastern European country has fenced off its Serbian border with razor wire, forcing some migrants to seek an alternative route through Croatia. – Jake Nelson
Top photo is a screenshot from Al-Jazeera’s TV coverage.