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'Open borders!': 200 migrants stuck at Serbia-Hungary border demand EU entry

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'Open borders!': 200 migrants stuck at Serbia-Hungary border demand EU entry
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AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic - Marko Drobnjakovic
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About 200 hundred migrants, including children, gathered Thursday at Serbia's border with Hungary to demand to be allowed entry into the European Union country.

Braving freezing evening weather and biting winds, the migrants camped at the Kelebija border crossing, blocking traffic. Wrapped in blankets or sleeping bags, many migrants were lying or sitting on the ground, holding their personal belongings close by.

Dozens of children shouted "Open borders!" while some of the migrant banners read "we are refugees, not criminals" or "we are running from war, not hunger." The border crossing was closed to traffic.

Serbian state TV said the group was transferred back to asylum centres early on Friday and the border crossing reopened soon after.

There are several thousand migrants, who are fleeing war and poverty in their countries, stuck in the Balkans while seeking to move to the more prosperous nations in Western Europe.

AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic
Migrants and refugees gather at a border crossing between Serbia and Hungary in Kelebija, Serbia, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.AP Photo/Marko DrobnjakovicMarko Drobnjakovic

Hungary has erected two rows of wire fences at the border to prevent their entry.

Smuggling

Most migrants in Serbia spend months in the state camps and attempt to cross the borders several times. They often rely on people smugglers to help them cross to Hungary or another EU member state, Croatia.

Most migrants come from countries such as Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands passed through the Balkans in 2015-16 when about one million people entered Europe.

Restrictive policies

Hungary has recently reported a spike in attempted illegal entry by migrants.

A Hungarian security guard fired three warning shots when several dozen migrants tried to enter Hungary late last month.

Meanwhile, restrictive changes in recent years to Hungary's asylum and immigration laws have made it nearly impossible for asylum-seekers presenting their applications at the Serbian border to win protection in Hungary.

In 2018, Hungary approved 367 requests for asylum or similar protection.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has campaigned nearly exclusively on an anti-immigration platform during the 2018 election, which saw him re-elected for a third consecutive term.

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