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09/12/2016

Hungary to build fence at Serbian border

Justice & Home Affairs

Hungary to build fence at Serbian border

Fence at the Bulgarian-Turkish border [Capital]

Hungary will build a 4-metre-high fence along its border with Serbia to stem the flow of illegal migrants, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said today (17 June).

“Immigration is one of the most serious problems facing the European Union today,” Szijjarto told a press conference. “The EU’s countries seek a solution… but Hungary cannot afford to wait any longer.”

“We are talking about a stretch of border 175 km (110 miles) long, whose physical closure can happen with a four-metre high fence. The interior minister received an instruction to prepare that,” he added.

The EU has seen a sharp rise in the number of Kosovo citizens smuggling themselves into the bloc via Serbia to Hungary.

As the economic situation of Kosovo is deteriorating, many Kosovars have tried to move west. It is relatively easy for Kosovars to get into neighbouring Serbia, and from there to cross the border illegally into Hungary, which is part of the Schengen area. Once there, they usually apply for asylum, or try to move to Austria or Germany.

The number of Kosovars seeking asylum in the EU rose to almost 25,000 in February 2015, according to EASO, the European Asylum Support Office. Kosovar asylum-seekers stand no chance of obtaining asylum, as they are economic migrants. In 2014, 42,775 people sought asylum in Hungary, of which only 550 have been granted protection.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has called the Commission’s plans to re-distribute migrants across the EU “insane”.

>> Read: Hungary’s Orbán angers EU over death penalty, migrants

Moreover, the Hungarian government has initiated a public consultation to ask Hungarians what they thought of immigration. One of the questions sent to 8 million Hungarians reads: “There are some who think that mismanagement of the immigration question by Brussels may have something to do with increased terrorism. Do you agree with this view?”

The government in Budapest has also started a poster campaign in the context of the migrant crisis, putting up some 1,000 Hungarian-language posters around the country warning readers to heed local laws and culture and not take jobs from Hungarians. The campaign has been decried by rights groups as xenophobic.

Building fences at borders is not a novelty for the EU. Greece has built a fence at its border with Turkey in the region of Orestiada. Bulgaria has erected a fence on its border with Turkey, as well.

The Commission says it is against building fences at borders, but it concedes that member states have the sovereign right to build them. No EU funds are reported to have been reported used for any such projects.