BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — More than 100,000 migrants have reached Hungary so far this year, nearly all of them entering through its southern border with Serbia, the Hungarian foreign minister said Friday.
Peter Szijjarto said that both Hungary and Serbia are facing "unprecedented immigration pressure" and that more migrants are coming to the European Union on the land route across the Balkans than by crossing the Mediterranean.
"This means that this year in the European Union, the highest number of illegal immigrants has arrived in Hungary," Szijjarto said after reopening a border crossing with his Serbian counterpart, Ivica Dadic, near the Hungarian village of Roszke and Horgos in Serbia.
Hungary says it will finish building a 4-meter (13-foot) -high fence on the border between the two countries by Aug. 31 to try to stem the flow of migrants.
Serbia has been strongly opposed to the fence, but Dadic acknowledged that the migrant flow needs to be controlled.
"That symbolic message by the Hungarian government to build the fence is not good for us," Dadic said. "But we have an absolute understanding of ... the problem of the migrants."
Hungary recently tightened its migration policies, with many of the new regulations, including fast-track court procedures for asylum seekers and the possibility of detaining them for longer periods, taking effect on Saturday. Hungary has also added Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia to its list of "safe countries," so it can return any migrants reaching Hungary from those states.
Amnesty International, while recognizing that the migrant flow on Europe's borders is "simply untenable," strongly criticized the new rules.
"This is a thinly veiled attempt by Hungary to dodge its obligations under national and international law to assist asylum-seekers who have a globally recognized right to claim international protection," said John Dalhuisen, the group's director for Europe and Central Asia.