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Hunger Striker Migrants Hold On As American Ambassadors Pay Visit To Hungary-Serbia Border Zone

Tamás Székely 2016.07.29.

The condition of migrants holding a hunger strike at the Serbia-Hungary border near Horgos for the fifth consecutive day is deteriorating, a public media correspondent reported from the site on Thursday. On Sunday 130 of the 300-400 migrants who had set off from Belgrade to Serbia’s northern border late last week arrived at the Horgos-Röszke border zone demanding passage through Hungary to western Europe.

The migrants, mainly from Afghanistan and Pakistan, told public news channel M1’s correspondent that they planned to start a hunger strike in protest of Hungary’s tightened border rules. Many of them ended up abandoning the protest and left for the nearby transit zone. Six of the migrants who continued the hunger strike have had to be taken to hospital. On Wednesday, the migrants covered their mouths with tape and are now only accepting water.

Meanwhile US Ambassador to Hungary Colleen Bell and US Ambassador to Serbia Kyle Scott visited a migrant transit zone in Röszke, in southern Hungary, on Thursday and they were shown the facility and local procedures by the regional director of the migration office. József Seres told the ambassadors that asylum-seekers and their belongings must pass through security checks upon entry and their personal data is checked to see if it appears in any database as persons wanted by the authorities.

Individuals who belong to vulnerable groups, such as families with small children, unaccompanied minors, ill and the elderly and people living with disabilities are transported to a reception centre inside the country and their procedures are carried out there. Of the 5,900 people who sought asylum this year, some 90% belonged in this category, Seres said.

Asylum requests by single men are processed in the transit zone and they get legal help. These people spend up to four weeks in the transit zone, where they get food and accommodation, but they are free to leave and return to Serbia at any point, Seres added. Some 60-70% of the migrants arriving recently had already requested asylum in another European Union member country, such as Greece or Bulgaria. In their case, the refugee procedure in Hungary was suspended and, in line with the Dublin agreement, the country where they first applied was asked to complete the procedure.

In response to a question by Bell, Seres said the Hungarian authorities are not entitled to take action on Serbian territory, so in the case of refugees waiting at the border, the help of civil organisations and UNHCR staff are sought to decide the order of applications received. Members of vulnerable groups are given priority, he added.

via and MTI photo: Zoltán Gergely Kelemen – MTI