BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian police said on Friday they had launched an investigation after an online video showed a crowd of migrants clamoring for food in a hangar at a reception center as police in surgical masks throw out packs of sandwiches.
The description of the footage says it was taken at a refugee camp in Roszke on Hungary’s southern border with Serbia, where thousands of migrants have been crossing into the European Union every day.
The video was posted on the YouTube channel of Austrian politician Alexander Spritzendorfer, and supposedly taken by his wife Michaela Spritzendorfer-Ehrenhauser.
In an e-mailed response to Reuters’ questions, police said they had launched an “emergency enquiry” into the matter, describing it as a fact-finding investigation, without elaborating.
Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said the footage showed a detention center where people spend only a few hours in an “optimal case” but can also remain there for up to two days in a procedure sanctioned by the European Union.
“I can see policemen who have been performing their duties for months, trying to take care of 23,000 migrants arriving continuously day by day while there is no co-operation whatsoever on their part,” Kovacs said in an emailed response.
“I can see they are trying to maintain order among those who are unable to line up for food,” he said.
There have been growing signs this week of Hungary’s inability to handle the flood of more than 170,000 people this year seeking sanctuary in Europe from war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.
On Thursday alone, police captured a record 3,601 migrants on the border, according to data on the police website.
Refugees stranded at the border have waited days to be registered, while conditions at makeshift frontier camps are basic. Medical care for the crowds at Budapest’s railway stations has been provided entirely by volunteers.
Spritzendorfer-Ehrenhauser, who works for the Austrian Catholic diocese of Sankt Poelten, told Reuters she took the footage while delivering sanitary supplies to the camp, which Reuters has not been able to enter, with the Hungarian Red Cross.
“It was around 8 o’clock and they were giving dinner to people,” she said. “There were maybe 100 people trying to catch these plastic bags with sausages... They were not able to organize a camp and treat them like human beings.”
While the United Nations High Commission for Refugees has praised the Hungarian police’s handling of the crisis, police themselves have complained of being forced to work very long hours in impossible conditions.
“It is not easy at the border, it was tense at the railway station and there is no quick fix because people sometimes are angry, they are sometimes are aggressive, sometimes for good reason, sometimes for bad reason,” UNHCR’s Regional Refugee Coordinator Vincent Cochetel said on Tuesday.
Reporting by Thomas Escritt, Gergely Szakacs and Krisztina Than; Writing by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Hugh Lawson