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Hungary extends state of emergency as Croatia shuts borders

After more than 11,000 refugees entered Croatia since Wednesday, that country said yesterday it was temporary closing its Serbian border crossings. Hungary declared a state of emergency in the Croatian border counties of Baranya and Somogy yesterday, and expanded the declaration to Zala and Vas counties today, according to reports. 

A map showing the six counties that are under a state of emergency. (Illustration: BBJ/Wikimedia)

Under Hungaryʼs new border legislation, which went into effect Tuesday, the state of emergency allows tougher measures by police and the army to patrol those southern counties, in order to prevent asylum seekers from entering the country without authorization.

In announcing the state of emergency in Baranya and Somogy near the Croatian border, Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said police in Baranya county registered 500 unauthorized border crossings by asylum seekers yesterday. The state of emergency was extended today to Zala, which borders on Croatia and Slovenia, and Vas, which borders on Slovenia and Austria, this morning, according to reports. A state of emergency already had existed in the two counties on the Serbian border since Wednesday.

Croatia had announced that it would allow refugee traffic on Tuesday, providing refugees an alternative route into the European Union on the day that Hungary tightened border controls. Though Croatia is in the EU, it is not part of the Schengen area, which has open borders, so that refugees going through that country must enter Slovenia to get into Schengen zone. Slovenia is currently not allowing trains into its country from the Croatian capital of Zagreb, reported yesterday. Many refugees say they want to go through the Schengen zone to enter Germany, which has been welcoming and is considering efforts to make it easier for asylum seekers to obtain jobs, according to reports.

Croatia said yesterday that its border crossings with Serbia will be closed for an “unspecified time”.

Hungary has already begun extending the fence, hastily erected on the Serbian border this summer to keep out asylum seekers, so that it will stretch along part of the border with Croatia, according to reports.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on public radio this morning that a 41 km-long fence will be erected on the border, and 500 soldiers have been deployed to the Croatian border to start construction.

Szijjártó criticized Croatia for allowing refugees to enter their country. “Croatia is unsuitable for joining the Schengen area,” he said, adding that their efforts to help refugees “collapsed in a single day”.