But frustrations were on the rise.
Large numbers of refugees are camped out at the fence on the Serbia-Hungary border, with many chanting and pleading with police to let them through.
Both Serbian and Romanian governments decried Hungary’s moves.
“Police have launched criminal procedures against them”, Gyorgy Bakondi, chief adviser to Prime Minister Viktor Orban, told a news conference.
Hungary is also planning another anti-migrant fence along along part of its border with Romania, a minister said on Tuesday.
Hungary effectively sealed its border with Serbia on Tuesday to stem the massive influx of refugees as Germany slammed the “disgraceful” refusal of other European Union countries to accept more migrants after 22 died in yet another shipwreck.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman insisted Monday that the country was not slamming its doors to refugees but argued the new measures were needed to restore order to the asylum process.
The state of emergency declared on Tuesday in two southern regions gave authorities greater powers to deal with the crisis, allowing them to shut down roads and speed up asylum court cases.
Hungary is in the vanguard of mostly central European states that reject a plan for all European Union members to take a quota of refugees, under proposals suggested by Germany – which is ready to accept a million refugees this year.
Equally controversially, Hungary is also building a four-metre high fence along its entire 175-kilometre border with non-EU Serbia and plans to deploy the army. “We are very clear on this: Illegal border crossing is a crime”.
Migrants queued in no-man’s land at metal containers built into the fence, stranded in what the government has dubbed “transit zones” and denied official entry into Hungary. Authorities are quickly repairing the fence.
Activists have gone to the Greek-Macedonian border to advise refugees on alternative routes, but some of those already in Serbia are just trying to punch through the fence, giving the Hungarian security guards the runaround. Two crossings were still open for regular traffic.
Then helmeted Hungarian police, some on horseback, closed off the main informal crossing point, backed by soldiers as a helicopter circled overhead. About 20 managed to get in, but thousands remained outside.
But numerous migrants will have their requests turned down automatically if they failed to submit an asylum application in Serbia or Macedonia, regarded by Hungary as safe.
They hoisted a baby grow on to the barbed wire of the barrier, reading “hunger strike: no food, no water, open this border”, as people protested beneath. “I don’t know what I will do”, said 40-year-old Riad from Aleppo in Syria.
As the shockwaves rippled across Europe, Slovakia said it would impose controls on its borders with Hungary and Austria. About 500 migrants were among those waiting, officials said, and hundreds more were expected.
Hungary blames Germany for accelerating the flow of migrants by announcing last month that it would take in Syrian refugees regardless of where they entered the EU. Now he wants a better life in Europe. Twenty-six European countries now issue common visas and leave the borders between them unguarded.
Migrants had rushed to beat the Hungarian deadline.
As Hungary’s border closure loomed, a record of 9,380 asylum seekers crossed on Monday alone, nearly all hoping to travel onwards to Germany and other parts of Western Europe.