Hungary police fire tear gas to quell riot in refugee camp

The disturbance began after one migrant ran off with another’s copy of the Quran and trampled on it

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Hungarian police fired tear gas to contain a riot at an overcrowded refugee camp in the eastern city of Debrecen Monday, after fighting broke out between asylum seekers over a religious dispute.

The disturbance began after one migrant ran off with another’s copy of the Quran and trampled on it, said a statement on the Hungarian police website.

Several hundred other asylum-seekers joined the fracas, which spilled out of the camp, where police said some cars in the parking lot were damaged and bins set on fire.

Riot police called as reinforcements fired tear gas to quell the riot and push the group back into the camp.

One man was detained in custody while one police officer was injured by a stone-thrower, according to the police statement.

In the last two years, EU member state Hungary has become a major transit country for refugees and migrants attempting to reach wealthy Western countries like Austria and Germany by land rather than sea.

Most come from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, but also from Kosovo.

Authorities told state news agency MTI later Monday that the camp will be temporarily closed to new arrivals, while restrictions will be placed on movement in and out. With room for 800 people, the camp in Debrecen (230 kilometers from Budapest) is one of Hungary’s largest reception centers for asylum-seekers, but is now holding 1,900, a government official told MTI Monday.

The nation received more asylum-seekers per capita than any other EU country apart from Sweden in 2014, up to nearly 43,000 from just 2,000 in 2012.

The spike in asylum-seekers has coincided with a series of controversial anti-migration measures launched by Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Earlier June, his government unveiled plans to build a four-metre (13-foot) high fence on its border with Serbia to keep out migrants.

The government has also sent the public questionnaires linking immigration to terrorism and launched a nationwide poster campaign urging migrants not to break laws or take jobs from Hungarians.

In a visit to Debrecen last month, Orban said the camp should be closed for good.

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