Hungarian mayor tries to drive away migrants with video, slammed gates

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TOVARNIK, Croatia — With razor wires and militarized borders, tear gas and water cannons, Hungary drove away weary, desperate migrants from its border with Serbia this week.

As they left, the mayor of the border town posted an online video with a warning. His message to migrants: If all that’s not enough to keep you away, I’ve got methods of my own.

In the two-minute action piece in Hungarian with English subtitles, Laszlo Toroczkai said he has his own backup for the nation’s troops.

“On the territory of Asotthalom they (troops) are supported by militant field guards and civil guards,” he says to action-packed music. On horseback, by motorcycle, all-terrain vehicle and helicopter, his men zip along the razor wire fence.

He then stands broad-legged staring through dark glasses with muscly men lined up behind him and tells migrants to go through Croatia and Slovenia if they want to get to Germany.

“Do not trust the lying human traffickers,” he says. “Hungary is a bad choice. Asotthalom is the worst.”

His may have been the most dramatic rejection, but throughout Europe, migrants are increasingly getting the cold shoulder.

And on Friday, French police said a migrant was electrocuted while trying to hop on a freight car headed to Britain, a reminder of the dangers migrants face.

Bottleneck Croatia

Hungary’s deflection methods may have worked.

Traumatized masses of women, men and children fleeing violence in their homelands have turned to Croatia.

And at first, it looked like they’d found refuge, when the country said it would allow migrants. Then on Thursday, it closed seven of its border crossings with Serbia.

Chaos erupted as thousands of people broke through police lines in the border town of Tovarnik.

Migrant men plunged through openings in fences, and families handed children forward past officers. Police did not use force against them but tried to keep barriers in place.

Since Croatia welcomed refugees, more than 14,000 migrants have crossed in, Croatian police said Friday. But the U.N. refugee agency said Croatia was only prepared to handle 500 migrants a day.

“I think that too many refugees entered in an uncontrolled way on the first day,” Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said.

”Yes, of course, Croatia showed a human face, but I stress that the safety of Croatian citizens and the stability of the state comes first,” she said.

Hungary’s new fence

Hungary said Friday it was extending its state of emergency prompted by the migrant crisis and planned to build a temporary security fence along its border with Austria and Croatia over the weekend. The government had already sent 600 soldiers to the Croatian border and was sending 500 more.

The human stream kept coming into Europe on Friday from the southeast — from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. From Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, where refugee camps are overflowing and the World Food Program has cut food rations for lack of funding.

And they are looking for pathways to Germany.

Hungary has started building a 41-kilometer (25-mile) fence down the Croatian border, Hungary’s International Communications Office said.

And Hungary rebuked Croatia this week over its previous generosity. Budapest’s Minister of State Laszlo Szabo summoned Croatia’s ambassador Thursday, telling him “that his country’s procedure is unacceptable.”

Rivers, mountains, landmines

The path to Austria via Croatia looks shorter on a map, but it is also more arduous, leading over rivers and mountains, and old battle lines of the Balkan Wars in the 1990s, where leftover scattered landmines and other unexploded ordnance lurk beneath the brush.

The path also leads through Slovenia, which, like Hungary, is an European Union border frontier. And it seems resistant to letting migrants pass through.

Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar tweeted Thursday that his country is committed to protecting the EU’s external borders. And allowing migrants safe passage through the country would violate national and European law, the country’s interior ministry said.

And Austria, the next country in the chain to Germany, has reinstated border control measures on its border to Slovenia.

Tougher law in Germany?

Even if they make it to Germany, which had let in tens of thousands of migrants early on, they could encounter closed borders. Lawmakers there are working to make it easier to deport quickly those who don’t achieve refugee status, German public television broadcaster ARD has reported.

The bill also cuts the level of aid provided to refugees in Germany.

On Thursday, Germany’s minister for migration and refugees resigned. Manfred Schmidt had been criticized for the slow process of dealing with asylum application and creating a backlog.

At the end of last month, 276,617 applications still needed to be processed.

A huge crisis

Aid workers say Europe is facing its largest refugee and migrant crisis since World War II.

More than 473,000 migrants have come to Europe by sea so far this year, more than double the number that arrived during all of 2014, the International Organization for Migration said. At least 182,000 came from war ravaged Syria. The United Nations put the overall number arriving in Europe at 442,440.

The EU is still trying to figure out how to distribute 160,000 migrants — and whether to set quotas for member countries to absorb them.

Eastern European countries in particular have shown resistance to committing to a quota.

Switzerland, however, said Friday that it would take 1,500 refugees registered in Italy and Greece if the EU can decide on an overall relocation program.