Hungary receives 110,000 asylum requests for far this year

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Posted: Aug 10, 2015 12:47 PM
Hungary receives 110,000 asylum requests for far this year

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary has received 110,000 asylum requests so far in 2015, more than double the total for all of last year, the head of the country's immigration office said Monday.

Zsuzsanna Vegh said registered asylum seekers were directed to one of Hungary's refugee centers to await decisions over their requests, but that most leave the country before their cases are settled.

"A significant number of those who we send (to the centers) never arrives at the institution," Vegh said on state radio, adding that they were now sheltering some 4,500 refugees, double their normal capacity.

Hungary received 42,777 applications for asylum in 2014.

Alarmed by the growing numbers of migrants, Hungary's government is building a 175-kilometer (109-mile) fence on the border with Serbia, which is scheduled to be finished by Aug. 31.

Planned to be 4 meters high (13 feet), for now only three strands of razor wire have been laid out on sections of the border where the government says human traffickers are most active. An AP video journalist saw galvanized steel posts and rolls of wire mesh in the border area, expected to be assembled soon.

In Budapest, hundreds of migrants gathered near the city's main railway terminals, waiting to go to a refugee center or to countries further west in the European Union, such as Germany or the Netherlands.

Sitting in the shade at Pope John Paul II Park, near the Keleti train station, a 26-year-old man from the Syrian city of Homs said the fence would not deter those escaping war and extreme poverty.

"We have mostly walked over 3,000 kilometers to come to Europe," said the refugee who would give only a nickname, George. "Some wires are not going to stop us."

Hungarian national police say they detained an average of 1,530 migrants a day in the week before the fence construction began on Aug. 3. In the week since, the daily average was 1,543.

Babar Baloch, spokesman for the U.N.'s refugee agency in Central Europe, said the number of refugee families with young children was rising.

"The trend is clearly that the refugees are on the move," Baloch said, adding that his organization was also encountering more and more unaccompanied children whose parents, in one example, had died after their boat capsized near Greece.

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Bela Szandelszky in Asotthalom, Hungary, contributed to this report.