BUDAPEST — ABANDONING its open-door policy, Hungary turned back 204 of 406 Bosnian refugees trying to enter the country through Croatia Thursday, the state Refugee Office said.
But Friday the state Hungarian News Agency denied that the border with Croatia was sealed, saying that "people arriving from there will be more strictly screened."
Istvan Szilagyi, the agency's international relations officer, said the refugees were Muslims fleeing "ethnic cleansing" - forced, nationality-based deportations by Serbian irregulars. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that some 70,000 Bosnians have been expelled this way since June 3. Some 3,500 of them have come to Hungary, which, with more than 60,000 Yugoslav war refugees, is nearing its capacity to absorb them, government officials say.
The 406 Muslims arrived in eight busloads at the Hungarian border. Only the children, sick, and elderly among them were allowed to enter, Szilagyi said. He acknowledged receiving reports that some Bosnians who resisted being "cleansed" were killed, but said that "there is a limit" to how many refugees the country could handle. "Why should Hungary take all the burden?" he asked.
Last week Croatia also said it would close its borders to refugees. UNHCR spokesman Robert Redmond said Croatia had absorbed "over 600,000" refugees, 399,500 of them Bosnians, as of July 14.