While illegal immigration remains a real and present threat on Hungary’s southern and eastern borders, conservative daily Magyar Nemzet gathered the strangest crossing attempts ranging from the entertaining to the down right stupid.
While Europe as a whole only experienced the first major migration wave of the new millennium in the summer of 2015, Hungary was faced with one just a few months earlier. When inter-ethnic fighting broke out in Kosovo around the 2014 Christmas holidays, the south Hungarian city of Szeged became a virtual refugee center: several gyms at the local schools had to be converted to temporary shelters for the Albanian minority fleeing the violence.
During this wave, the strangest group consisted of an entire Kosovar village: they all came to Hungary, complete with the local mayor, priest, schoolteacher and every single family. The disabled have not been abandoned either by the village folk: three elderly crossed the border in wheelchairs and one elderly man who fell ill during the trip was carried across in a wheelbarrow they bought from a Serbian farmer.
Everyone was 16
When the first wave of migrants from the Middle East arrived in 2015, irrespective of where they came from, almost all declared themselves to hail from Iraq or Syria, war zones whose refugees were given preferential treatment. Also knowing that those under 18 could more easily be accepted, all who did not have obvious grey hairs declared themselves to be 16. The authorities initially tried to disprove their evidently false claims by lengthy and expensive anthropological tests, but in a relatively short time police introduced a rapid-fire questioning method which inevitably led to most of them tripping up, truthfully stating, for example, that they began school in say 1996, meaning they couldn’t possibly be 16 as they claimed.
At the height of the crisis, there were months when the number of illegal entrants requiring translation was too high, that border stations had their resident interpreters, some of whom made up to HUF 3 million (€8,500 at today’s conversion rate) a month even at the not too generous official translator fees.
By the autumn of 2015, the most frequented stretches of the Serbian border already had a fence built along it and border guards began installing night vision and infrared cameras. The attempts to fool the infrared cameras showed both imagination and complete lack of physics knowledge: in one case, a man covered all his clothes in compact disks, hoping that the silvery reflective underside will make him invisible. Yet others bought thermal isolation blankets from ambulances, which didn’t work either. A group of twelve Syrians wrapped their entire bodies in common household aluminium foil – the plan may even have worked, but about half of the group were smokers and the embers of their cigarettes gave them away. Another group hid in the sand load of a lorry, but forgot that their footprints remained in the sand. So when the border guards took a look, they saw the footprints leading to the middle of the lorry where they disappeared as if by magic. The border guards could have ordered the lorry driver to empty the cargo hold – or, alternatively, dig out the people hiding in the sand, but they chose the most expedient solution: they obstructed the plastic breathing pipes so the people buried in the sand came out of their own accord.
Salsa band complete with dancers
But the icing on the cake was the Buena Vista Havana salsa group from Cuba, who were supposed to begin their European tour in the spring of 2015, but their European visa request was denied. They flew from Moscow to Belgrade, boarded a bus to the nearest village on the Hungarian border from where they followed the rail line crossing into Hungary. In the mean time, their manager already hired a bus and was waiting for them on the Hungarian side. They packed light: all of them were wearing their stage costumes, including the 25 dancers. The band also came with their instruments, except for the drums and double bass, too cumbersome for a foot trip.
They were promptly detained by border guards, but thanks to the efforts of Hungarian diplomacy they eventually got their European visas and were able to begin the tour. But while waiting for the papers, they held a rehearsal in the border guard barracks, much to the delight of the servicemen there.
Title image: Illegal border crossing on the Hungarian-Serbian border. (source: szegedma.hu)