Hungary sealed its border with Serbia on Tuesday, cutting off the flow of Syrian refugees flooding European Union nations.
Germany, Slovakia and Austria re-imposed border controls after a month that saw a record 156,000 new arrivals. Poland and the Netherlands are also considering imposing border controls, a move that is disturbing to nations who have flourished in a border-free reality for many years.
Hungary has instituted new immigration laws punishing “illegal border-crossing” with up to three years in prison and is building a four-meter high fence along the 175-kilometer border with non-EU Serbia. Authorities on Tuesday announced 60 arrests had already been made under the new laws.
The official border crossings at Roszke and Asothalom were also closed while EU ministers remained undecided at a meeting on Monday on how to divide up the burden of the 120,000 refugees presently seeking asylum.
The European Union’s Frontex border agency Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri said in a statement on Tuesday, “More than 500,000 migrants were detected at EU borders in the first eight months of this year after a fifth consecutive monthly record was registered in August, when 156,000 crossed the EU borders. However, a large number of the persons detected at the Hungarian border with Serbia had already been counted when they arrived in Greece from Turkey a few weeks earlier,” suggesting the number of entries could be lower.
The route across the Aegean from Turkey to Greece has become the busiest for migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe with Syrian refugees accounting for nearly 75 percent of the people arriving in Greece from Turkey. The Greek islands experienced the greatest “number of detections in August at 88,000, an 11-fold rise compared to the same month last year,” Frontex added.
At least 22 people died Tuesday morning as they tried to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece. Their boat capsized in a tragic scene that is becoming all too common. Turkish authorities say they have rescued over 42,000 migrants trapped at sea since the beginning of the year.