June 1, 2016 / 4:30 PM / 3 years ago

Hungarian police secure migrant camp, block protesters from leaving

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian police secured a fenced-in migrant processing center near the Serbian border on Wednesday to block about 300 protesting migrants from marching to Budapest, police said in a statement.

A Syrian chosen as spokesman for the protest gave a petition to officials at the camp in the town of Kiskunhalas, it said, and then urged the migrants to march to the Hungarian capital, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) to the north.

A video posted on the news website index.hu showed dozens of people chanting “freedom, freedom!” behind a high wire fence while dozens of police vehicles and officers with dogs patrolled the area to secure the perimeter of the camp.

“About 300 of the 484 detained migrants protested against closed quarters and slow processing of their cases,” said the statement. “Police have deployed significant force to secure the processing center and the surrounding area and will stop migrants from leaving the premises of the center.”

The camp is closed because it houses migrants who have been expelled from Hungary legally but have not yet been deported. Police spoke with the migrants and a conflict was unlikely, Gyorgy Bakondi, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s national security advisor, told public television M1.

Hungary was on the main overland route that about a million migrants took last year from the Middle East to Western Europe. Budapest diverted that traffic with a razor wire fence along its southern border with Serbia and Croatia.

The flow has since slowed but thousands have still managed to make it through this year, keeping the issue in the public eye as Orban prepares a referendum in which he will ask voters to reject an EU plan to re-distribute migrants.

Thousands of migrants camped out in front of a central Budapest train station for weeks last August before a large group of them decided to march for the Austrian border, forcing Hungary to abandon its efforts to process their claims and elevating tensions about the migrant crisis across Europe.

Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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