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Migrants Attempt To Leave Temporary Camps On Hungary-Serbia Border


Asylum-seekers being held in a detention center in Hungary want out.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) We want go. We want go. We want go.


That chant, we want go, came today from behind a barbed-wire fence near Hungary's border with Serbia. Thousands of people have crossed that border in the last few days trying to get to the Hungarian capital to catch a train to Germany.

CORNISH: Hungarian police are trying to control that flow of people. We reached reporter Lauren Frayer earlier today at a temporary camp set up in a cornfield near the border.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: This field is strewn with toys, tents, plastic bottles, and the circumference is surrounded by Hungarian police. And every once in a while, people get frustrated and try to make a run for it and decide they're going to try to walk to Budapest, which is a two-hour drive from here. And police go after them and drag them back and try to keep them in this encampment until the police can register all of them.

CORNISH: So what more are Hungarian authorities actually doing with the people they've detained?

FRAYER: So every few hours, buses are rolling up here and taking people by the dozens into a new detention facility that's just opened a few days ago about half-a-mile from here. I visited the center. I wasn't able to go inside, but I was able to go to the fence and talk to people who are locked up inside. There were children from Syria, from Afghanistan, rattling the barbed-wire fence, asking me for milk, food, asking me why they're imprisoned here.

CORNISH: What else have these refugees been telling you?

FRAYER: Well, they're sort of bewildered. Up until now, a lot of them have come from Afghanistan, from Syria, and honestly, they've dealt more with smugglers than they have with official authorities. So they're a little bewildered by the reaction of Hungarian police locking them up. They don't understand why they're behind bars. They say they just want to go to Germany.

CORNISH: The Hungarian government obviously has been receiving a lot of criticism, actually, people calling its policy confused about the migrants so far. What is the government saying?

FRAYER: Well, the government here says it's trying to follow EU laws by registering asylum-seekers. Technically, asylum-seekers are supposed to be fingerprinted and ask for asylum when they enter the EU. The Hungarian authorities - they've never had an experience like this. They're overwhelmed. There are thousands and thousands of Hungarian civilians who are coming here to help. And a lot of the food and water and supplies, sleeping bags, tents that I've seen people using here are actually coming from civilians, charities and other groups to supplement the government's efforts.

CORNISH: And any signs of this improving, any movement?

FRAYER: Well, I'm looking up at dark clouds in the sky, and it'll be very unpleasant if there's a deluge of rain. So there is a push to try to get them out of here and try to get them on trains northward. I mean, we're in this cornfield, and the idea is to keep them here, far, far from public transport and far from the eyes of the international media.

We're in a very remote place on the Serbian-Hungarian border, and the Hungarian authorities experienced a lot of embarrassing scenes last week in Budapest with the main train station absolutely overloaded with migrants. So the idea is to try to keep them away from there and keep them under police control here.

CORNISH: That's reporter Lauren Frayer on Hungary's border with Serbia. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

FRAYER: Good to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.
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