Crowds gather at the Romanian-Hungarian border

Border crossing points between Romania and Hungary such as Nagylak-Nagylak (Nădlac)1, Csanádpalota-Nagylak2, and Ártánd-Bors (Borş) have been overwhelmed during the past couple of days, as crowds of people have been arriving from Western countries. According to the Romanian Border Police, far more people want to enter the country than in the previous weeks, but the so-called humanitarian corridor, which is meant for passenger traffic crossing Hungary, is limited to the above-mentioned border points.

Chief Inspector Laura Bondar, spokesperson for the Nagyvárad Border Police directorate, told Hungarian News Agency MTI that border traffic has intensified, and Romanian rules regarding entry have to be respected; document control, temperature checks, and the reviews of the epidemiological declarations take five to ten minutes for each person, hence the traffic congestion at the border.

Romanian media says the intensified border traffic is due to the fact that the state of emergency was replaced with “pandemic rule” as of May 15; according to the new regulations, citizens arriving from countries heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic are not obliged to enter institutional quarantine anymore, but have to isolate themselves at home.

Per the online traffic system accessible from the website of the Romanian Border Police, on Sunday afternoon at the Nagylak-Nagylak1 checkpoint, seven entry lanes were provided for vehicles. Still, the waiting time was approximately eight hours. At Csanádpalota-Nagylak, people could enter via one of six lanes, but the wait there was at least five hours. Romanian TV channels reported that the number of pedestrians crossing the borders has steeply increased as well. At Nagylak, the border police provided 11 lanes for these people, yet many had to wait up to 12 hours to enter the country.

Chief Inspector Bondar told MTI that these pedestrians were most likely brought by cars to the border, but their drivers would not go through the procedures of entry, so they were left somewhere in the vicinity. She stated that some of the Romanian nationals are coming back because they do not have their overseas jobs anymore and many want to renew official documents. Romanian authorities have prolonged the validity of expired documents; even so, it seems that people fear that if they postpone resolving the problem, they will eventually not be able to enter the country.

According to the data published by the Border Police, on Saturday 11,800 vehicles and a total of 11,000 people crossed the checkpoints. Agerpres news agency said that these numbers are triple the figures registered on the previous days.

Horea Timiş, director of the Arad County National Health Service, informed Agerpres that he had to get the border authorities to take action so that people arriving on foot keep the obligatory distance between each other, as hundreds were crowded side-by-side for hours. After the warning of the National Health Service, border police have created a zigzag corridor, similar to what airports use, and officers are checking documents at outdoor tables as well, not just in their official booths.

The DSP director also said that some people had to walk five kilometers carrying their bags, and some have even passed out due to dehydration; thus paramedic teams were sent to the borders and are also distributing water. Pregnant women and people with small children have priority at the border checks.

Arad border police say that during the past 24 hours, 1,140 people crossed the Nagylak checkpoint on foot. On Sunday, the approximate waiting time there was about eight hours. On May 16, a total of 31,743 people crossed the border between Romania and Hungary – 16,164 of them entered, while 15,579 left the country.  Nevertheless, those leaving Romania had to wait only one, or even just half an hour.

Title image: Hundreds were crowded together for hours until a zigzag corridor was created

Author: Éva Zay