Hungarian border police are now accepting 10 asylum-seekers per weekday from Serbia, down from the 20 per weekday accepted previously.
The change to how Hungarian border police use “the list” — a waiting list for crossing the border from Serbia to Hungary – went into effect January 23, UNHCR said.
The change means Hungary will accept 50 asylum-seekers per week from Serbia, instead of the 100 it accepted before.
What is “the list”?
When people arrive at one of Serbia’s asylum centers, they can register to get their name on a list, which was once a paper document (below) but is now reportedly computerized.
The list is shared with the Hungarian authorities, who use it to choose a small number of people who can enter Hungary and apply for asylum there.
People on the waiting list watch as their names move up, or not. If they get close to the top they go to the border to await their turn. Everyone else is out of luck.
Why does the list exist?
Tolerated by Hungarian and Serbian authorities, the list was likely created to prevent large numbers of people from gathering on the Serbia-Hungary border to wait, hoping they can cross.
How does Hungary choose people from the list?
Hungarian border police have not explained their method for selecting people from the list. To many migrants in Serbia, the selection process can seem random.
But in practice, border police usually choose from among the most vulnerable people, including women traveling with children and gravely ill people. They don’t usually choose single men traveling alone.
A child waits in Krnjaca camp in Serbia.
Why has Hungary cut down the number of people it is accepting?
Hungary has not said why it made the change, but it does come at a time when Hungarian authorities are introducing new measures to crack down on illegal border crossings, including recruiting a new special force of “border hunters” to stop illegal entry into the country.
What other ways are there to move on from Serbia legally?
If your name is not on the list, it is almost impossible to move on from Serbia. In 2015, Hungary put up a razor-wire fence from west to east across its border. Many refugees have been wounded by the sharp wire.
Those who use illegal alternatives to enter Hungary also face a high chance of being caught or attacked by a ferocious dog on the other side of the border. Many have returned to Serbia with injuries.
Croatian border police are also reporting a strong rate of catching refugees attempting to cross its border illegally.
What happens to people in Serbia while they wait to move on?
More than 7,800 migrants have been counted living in Serbia now, with about 17 percent living outside official camps as the country works to build new facilities to house them.