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Image: Reuters/B. Szabo

Hungary seeks clarity on migrant travel rules

August 31, 2015

Budapest asked for Germany's clarification on Schengen travel rules, as most migrants cross into Hungary and then head for northern Europe. Berlin later reaffirmed that people should apply for asylum in Hungary first.


Hungary on Monday called on Germany to clarify how it interprets the regulations that govern how refugees can travel within the European Union.

Hungarian government spokesman Andras Giro-Szasz told the national news agency MTI that under the Schengen agreement, which sets the rules for passport-less travel within the EU, Budapest cannot let migrants move on to other countries, including Germany, without proper documents and visas.

Giro-Szasz claimed Germany had shown more flexibility when dealing with illegal migrants arriving from Syria and this had "boosted hopes" among migrants. His comments appeared to imply that Germany was welcoming aslyum seekers directly, without the need for registration in Hungary.

"In order to end the opaque and adverse conditions, we ask Germany to clarify the legal situation," he told MTI.

Germany was quick to reaffirm that, under EU rules, migrants arriving in Hungary must register for asylum there.

So far this year, Hungary has reported almost 150,000 migrants crossing its border with Serbia, with most seeking to travel further north to Germany and Sweden.

Officials have struggled to register the new arrivals, as many run away before their asylum applications can be processed.

Large numbers of migrants have been left stranded at Budapest railway stations as they don't have the correct paperwork.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert denied that special trains were laid on from Hungary to Germany, after a Reuters reporter in Budapest witnessed migrants being allowed onto trains headed for Munich.

Tougher controls

On Friday, Hungary said it would construct migrant holding centers at its border, to give officials several days to process asylum requests. Refugees would then face stronger penalties for crossing the frontier illegally.

Bildergalerie Flüchtlinge an der serbisch-ungarischen Grenze
Soon, migrants will face razor wire and a new 4 meter fence as they approach the Hungarian borderImage: Reuters/B. Szabo

Budapest has faced criticism from other EU countries for building a 175-kilometer (109-mile) fence along its border to keep migrants out. Hungary also deployed thousands of police officers to defend its frontier.

Over the weekend, a separate barrier, which consists of three rolls of razor wire, was finished.

Hungarian leaders have blamed the EU for the lack of a coordinated response to the crisis, which has seen unprecedented numbers arrive in southern Europe, many of them escaping the Syrian conflict.

As Germany, Britain and France held a crisis meeting on Monday to deal with influx of migrants, Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico confirmed that leaders from Central European countries would hold their own talks at the end of the week. The Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary would take part, he said.

mm/jil (Reuters, dpa)

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