Dozens of police officers in helmets took up position across a railway track that traverses the border and has been used for months by tens of thousands of refugees, many of them Syrian refugees, to enter the EU from Serbia.
Hungary closed down the main refugee crossing point from Serbia on Monday, moving ahead with a crackdown on record numbers streaming into the European Union.
Dozens of police officers in helmets took up position across a railway track that traverses the border and has been used for months by tens of thousands of refugees, many of them Syrian refugees, to enter the EU from Serbia. Soldiers and mounted police were also present and a helicopter circled overhead.
Hungarian police directed hundreds of refugees, including families with small children, to the official Horgos 2 border crossing around a kilometre away, but that too was blocked by a metal gate. The move came hours before new laws enter into force giving authorities the power to arrest and jail anyone caught trying to cross Hungary's southern border from Serbia illegally, and to hold or expel asylum seekers. More than 1,90,000 refugees and refugees fleeing poverty and war in the Middle East, Africa and Asia have been recorded entering Hungary from Serbia this year, putting the ex-Communist country on the frontline of Europe's worst refugee crisis since the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.
The influx has sowed discord and recrimination in the 28-nation EU, feeding anti-immigration sentiment. Hungary is racing to complete construction of a metal fence the length of its border with Serbia. By 4 pm (1400 GMT) on Monday, a record 7,437 refugees, many of them Syrian refugees, had been recorded entering from Serbia, which is outside the European Union. "We heard the Hungarians will close the border on September 15th so we had to hurry from Greece," 24-year-old engineering student Amer Abudalabi, from the Syrian capital Damascus, said shortly before crossing the border from Serbia.
"We have not slept since Saturday morning I'm so tired. I won't believe it when we cross into Hungary."
Many were taken by bus to the railway station in the border town of Roszke, where police directed them onto a train in an apparent attempt to clear the backlog by Tuesday.
Some said they had not been registered, despite the government's insistence it is sticking to EU rules that asylum seekers must be registered in the first EU country they enter. More than a week after they lifted restrictions on refugees entering from Hungary, Austria followed Germany on Monday in reimposing Europe's internal border controls, in effect suspending the Schengen regime allowing border-free travel across the continent. Vienna said it would dispatch the armed forces to guard its eastern frontier.
Hungary says it is duty-bound to secure the EU's external frontier. Authorities say they will from Tuesday receive and process asylum requests at the border with Serbia and send many of those who apply to camps elsewhere in the country. Hungary has reserved the right to expel asylum seekers back into Serbia, having declared its neighbour a 'safe country' for refugees.
Those who refuse to cooperate will be held at the border and could be expelled. Those who try to smuggle themselves over the border, avoiding police, face arrest and possibly jail. Many refugees try to avoid being registered or seeking asylum in Hungary, fearing being stuck in the country or sent back there if caught elsewhere in Europe.
Workers were seen fixing razor wire to a train wagon positioned to quickly block the railway line that crosses the border. Orban drafted hundreds more police to the border on Monday, telling on them to be humane but "uncompromising" in implementing the new law. "You will meet with people who have been deceived. You will be met with temper and aggression," he told them.