REPUBLIC OF HUNGARY: Children separated from families by police amid border chaos

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21 Sep 2015
[International Secretariat]
Topic: Refugees and Migrants

At least nine people including at least four children separated from their families by Hungarian police during the breach of a border fence in Röszke must be immediately released and reunited with their families, said Amnesty International today. Their exact whereabouts is unknown but they are thought to have been taken to a nearby border control building.

“The families are desperate to be reunited with their children. Not only have they experienced the traumatic journey to the border and the use of force by the police – they have now lost the security of being with their parents. The Hungarian authorities must immediately hand these children over to their families,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Director, who is at the scene.

The incident happened after refugees surged forward and broke through a border fence. The police initially responded with the use of pepper spray and panic ensued. Some people ran from the scene while some women and children lay on the ground.

Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that the Hungarian police picked up a mother and child and took them away. One father of an eight year old child told Amnesty International:
“My child was taken from me as I was holding his hand and we’ve been separated ever since.”
Amnesty International saw the Hungarian police walk up to another father of two of the children aged six and eight, who was seeking assistance to help locate them. The police pushed him and a UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) staff member and prodded them with a baton in their backs.

Background information

More than 1,000 people, including many families fleeing conflict in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, remain stuck in abysmal and rapidly deteriorating conditions along a Serbian motorway after Hungarian authorities closed the border crossing yesterday, Amnesty International said today from Horgoš on the Serbian side.

Humanitarian organizations, including the UN Refugee Agency, have been virtually absent so far and the Serbian authorities’ only response has been to send a handful of police to the border area. Hundreds of refugees are sleeping rough on a closed motorway, with only ad hoc aid from volunteers and severely restricted access to food, running water or toilets.

“The refugees we’ve spoken to have described the uncertainty and indignation they feel, stuck in limbo with a complete lack of information. They are effectively stuck in a no-man’s land on the Serbian border and the Hungarian border fence,” said Tirana Hassan, Director of Crisis Response at Amnesty International, from Horgoš.

“Even more refugees are streaming in today as the situation rapidly deteriorates. The Serbian authorities and the European Union knew this was going to happen and yet failed to respond adequately, meaning hundreds of the most vulnerable people are now stuck between razor wire and the abyss of not knowing what comes next.”

16 September 2015

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