Hungary completes 2nd border fence meant to stop migrants

AP News
Posted: Apr 28, 2017 10:54 AM
Hungary completes 2nd border fence meant to stop migrants

ROSZKE, Hungary (AP) — A second fence on the border with Serbia meant to stop any surge in the flow of migrants toward Western Europe has been completed, the Hungarian government said Friday.

Interior Ministry State Secretary Karoly Kontrat said Friday near the border town of Roszke that the new, 155-kilometer (96-mile) fence provides even greater security for Hungary.

"The Balkan route is invariably active and, as the summer approaches, a growing number of migrants is heading toward Europe," Kontrat said. "Preparations are needed for migration pressure which could be even bigger than until now."

Hungary built fences on the southern borders with Serbia and Croatia in late 2015, after some 400,000 migrants and refugees passed through the country. Since then, Hungary has also introduced a series of new rules, the so-called "legal border closure," such as the summary expulsion to Serbia of migrants who can't prove their legal right to be in Hungary, which have been disputed by human rights groups.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban is staunchly anti-migration and says Hungary doesn't want to solve its demographic crisis and increasingly acute labor shortage with migrants. Hungary is also suing to prevent from having to take part in a European Union scheme to resettle asylum seekers from Greece and Italy to other member countries. Hungary would have to take in around 1,300 asylum-seekers.

Orban says U.S.-based billionaire George Soros, who was born in Hungary, is working against Hungarian interests by advocating for migration and sponsoring civic groups which offer legal help to asylum seekers.

"Brussels and the pro-migrant Soros organizations have taken aim at both the legal and the physical border closure," Kontrat said. "They want us to let the migrants in and they want us to dismantle the legal or the physical border closure."

U.N. agencies have also criticized Hungary's very strict asylum polices, including the holding of asylum-seekers older than 14 in border container camps.

The new fence was built in 60 days — 60 days ahead of schedule — with the help of 700 prison inmates. Materials included 31,000 steel posts, 5,000 rolls of razor-wire and 10,200 rolls of wire fencing.

The government says it has spent some 284 billion forints ($988 million) on the fences and the two container camps for asylum-seekers.