Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Refugees at the Hungarian border with Serbia near the town of Horgoš on Sept. 16, 2015. (Photo: Armend Nimani/AFP/Getty)

Refugees at the Hungarian border with Serbia near the town of Horgoš on Sept. 16, 2015. (Photo: Armend Nimani/AFP/Getty)

Refugees Trapped at Hungarian Border Attacked With Tear Gas, Water Cannons

Crowds chant "open, open, open" while decrying inhumane treatment

Sarah Lazare

Hungarian police fired water cannons and tear gas at refugees seeking to cross razor-wire barriers at the Serbian border on Wednesday, part of the country's escalating crackdown on survivors of war and poverty seeking entry en route to Western Europe.

The confrontations occurred in what has become a "no man's land" between the Serbian village of Horgoš and the Hungarian village of Roszke, not far from the main border crossing. People in the crowd, many of whom are escaping Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, clapped and chanted "Open, open, open!"

At one point, women moved to the front of the crowd holdings babies over their heads in an apparent appeal for humanity.

"We fled wars and violence and did not expect such brutality and inhumane treatment in Europe," Amir Hassan, who is from Iraq, told the Associated Press as he washed tear gas from his eyes. "Shame on you, Hungarians," he then shouted towards the police forces.

The following footage shows scenes from the Hungarian authorities' attack:

The crowd had reportedly been seeking to escape a squalid camp on a Serbian road, where they remain trapped after the right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán shut the border to refugees on Tuesday.

"Since the area near the border crossing is open countryside along a motorway, there is no shelter or food, and severely limited toilets and running water. The refugees are doing all they can to keep the situation under control, but conditions are extremely dire," Amnesty International reported Wednesday. "Any refugees who have tents are using them, but hundreds are sleeping rough on the motorway or the roadside."

According to Amnesty International, aid groups and the UN refugee agency have been "virtually absent so far."

The crisis is exacerbated by an escalating crackdown orchestrated by the Hungarian government. Hungarian authorities said on Wednesday that they have arrested a total of 519 people who tried to cross into the country after "states of emergency" were declared and new laws went into effect on Tuesday that imposed harsh criminal penalties on people seeking unauthorized entry.

Meanwhile, the government continues to construct a razor-wire fence along the border and deploy military and police personnel. And disturbing footage emerged last week of deeply inhumane conditions at one of the country's larger refugee camps.

Hungary has been the main route by land that refugees have been traveling to reach the European Union’s Schengen zone. But under the harsh conditions, refugees are findings new paths, with hundreds journeying through Croatia.

But they face increasingly harsh policies across the European continent, as countries tighten their borders and lag on humanitarian commitments. While many ordinary people in Europe are mobilizing to show refugees that they are welcome, those fleeing war and poverty also face racist and xenophobic blowback—from mobs as well as governments. Meanwhile, wealthy nations beyond Europe—including the United States—are admitting a dismally low number of asylum seekers.

Speaking from Horgoš, Tirana Hassan, director of crisis response at Amnesty International, said the culpability expands far beyond the Hungarian government. "The Serbian authorities and the European Union knew this was going to happen and yet failed to respond adequately, meaning hundreds of the most vulnerable people are now stuck between razor wire and the abyss of not knowing what comes next."

Among those still stranded near the border between Hungary and Syria, there are reports of confusion, as well as mutual aid, as strangers and family alike share meager food and shelter with each other.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

UN Agency Condemns 'Homophobic and Racist' Monkeypox Reporting

"Stigma hurts everyone," says one ranking UNAIDS official. "Shared science and social solidarity help everyone."

Brett Wilkins ·

'Tax the Rich,' Say Millionaire Activists Protesting at Davos Amid Record Wealth, Inequality

"As someone who has enjoyed the benefits of wealth my whole life I know how skewed our economy is and I cannot continue to sit back and wait for someone, somewhere, to do something," said one demonstrator.

Brett Wilkins ·

Rights Group Urges Civilian Safeguards as Biden Sends Troops Back to Somalia

"A culture of impunity for civilian loss breeds resentment and mistrust among the population and undermines efforts to build a more rights-respecting state," Human Rights Watch's regional director asserted.

Brett Wilkins ·

Australian Progressives Hail 'Greenslide' Amid Big Left Wins and Morrison's Ouster

"People have backed the Greens in record numbers and delivered a massive mandate for action on climate and inequality," said party leader Adam Bandt.

Brett Wilkins ·

Omar Leads Charge Against Baby Formula Monopolies Amid US Shortage

Democrats urge the FTC to probe "any unfair or unsustainable practices, like deceptive marketing, price gouging, and stock buybacks, that may be weakening our nutritional formula supply."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo