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Hungary completes new anti-migrant border fence with Serbia


Hungary

Hungary completes new anti-migrant border fence with Serbia

Hungary says it has finished building a second fence on the border with Serbia to keep migrants out.

The double layer barrier stretches for 155 kilometres and comes equipped with alarms and thermal imaging cameras.

Fences went up along the southern borders with Serbia and Croatia in 2015 after an estimated 400,000 migrants and refugees, many from the Middle East, passed through the country heading for Western Europe.

The first section of barbed wire was built along the 175-kilometre border between Hungary and Serbia in the summer of 2015, then along most of the frontier with Croatia.

The government says the protection of Hungary’s borders is now stronger than ever.

Interior Ministry State Secretary Karoly Kontrat visited the new barrier near the border town of Roszke on Friday.

“The government decided to build the second fence because we need to be prepared for a migratory pressure which could be even bigger than it has been until now. The mass migration afflicting Europe has been constant for the past two years. The Balkan route is invariably active and, as the summer approaches, a growing number of migrants are heading towards Europe,” the deputy minister said.

The authorities say since the beginning of the year only 165 people have crossed the Hungarian border “illegally”. “By defending its borders, Hungary is also defending the Schengen Zone,” Kontrat said.


UN agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have castigated Hungary for tightening its asylum policies. Those seeking asylum can only do so in two border zones, and under a recent law migrants have been detained and held in shipping containers.

The Hungarian government has been accused of depriving asylum seekers of food and medical services at the Kiskunhalas camp. Local residents have reportedly stepped in to provide supplies, even though Hungarian law prevents outside individuals from bringing food to refugee camps.

Earlier this week the European Commission launched legal action against Hungary over a law that would effectively close down the Central European University in Budapest, founded by George Soros, allegedly on spurious grounds motivated by the fact that the institution promotes liberal thought. The law has brought street protests.


NGOs have complained about another bill which would require those receiving foreign donations of 7.2 million forints (23,000 euros) to register with the authorities and declare themselves as foreign-funded.

The government has named two organisations – the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and the Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) – as “representing the interests of illegal migrants against those of Hungary”.

Critics have said Orban’s efforts to stifle dissent in his desire for an “illiberal democracy” echo those of President Vladimir Putin in Russia.


The Hungarian prime minister was taken to task in the European Parliament by the leader of the Liberal group, Guy Verhofstadt, who accused Viktor Orban of wanting European money but not the EU’s values.

Hungary’s supporters have strongly taken issue with such criticism, decrying as a myth the supposed link between policy on migration and EU funds for member states.

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