Hungary is ready to build a second line of fencing on its southern border to keep out migrants if the situation worsens this year or next, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s chief of staff said on Thursday (9 February).
Hungary has been building fences since the beginning of the migration crisis in 2015. Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees trekked through Hungary and Austria in 2015 as they sought to reach wealthy European nations.
Orbán announced for a second line of fencing last August, to reinforce the existing barrier erected last year along the 175-kilometre-long border.
Dubbed a “smart fence” due to its high-tech features, the fence was a three-metre-high and 10.3-kilometre-long barrier, equipped with heat and movement sensors, as well as night cameras installed at regular intervals, according to media reports.
Janos Lazar also told a news conference on Thursday that the government plans to set up container camps on the southern border, where it wants to detain migrants while their asylum requests are being assessed.
He said there were close to 600 migrants in Hungary waiting for their asylum application to be processed, mostly in open camps, which posed a “security risk”, and the aim was to restrict their movement, keeping them on the border.
Human rights groups slammed Hungary for holding already large numbers of asylum-seekers in closed camps. They said that such massive, indiscriminate detention of all asylum-seekers “has not been seen in decades in democratic Europe”.
The Hungarian Helsinki Committee vowed to sue Hungary at the European Court of Justice in every case where asylum-seekers are illegally kept in custody, likely forcing Budapest to make compensation payments.
“The government would do better instead to improve the quality of the open reception centers and spend this money on the integration of people who have found asylum in Hungary,” the group said.
Hungary granted asylum or some form of protection to 425 people in 2016, while receiving 29,432 applications.
Last July, Orbán described the arrival of asylum seekers in Europe as “a poison”.