Friday

19th Jul 2019

Hungary's anti-migrant fence draws rebuke

Hungary has said it will build an anti-migrant fence on its border with Serbia, drawing an immediate rebuke from its neighbour.

“We’re talking about a stretch of border 175km long, whose physical closure can happen with a four-metre high fence,” Peter Szijjarto, Hungary's foreign minister, told press in Budapest on Wednesday (17 June).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Budapest: says 'cannot afford to wait' for EU-level solution (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)

“This decision does not break any international treaty. Other countries have opted for the same solution”, he added, referring to Greek and Bulgarian fences.

He said Hungary will designate all EU states and EU candidate countries as “safe countries”, meaning it can deport asylum seekers who come to Hungary after crossing Bulgaria, Greece, or Serbia.

Szijjarto also said Hungary “cannot afford to wait any longer” for an EU-level solution to the migrant crisis.

The Hungarian Office of Immigration and Nationality says 57,000 irregular migrants have come so far this year.

Seventy five percent are from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and 95 percent came via Serbia.

The government expects the number to reach 130,000 by the end of the year. The figure was 43,000 last year, up from just 2,000 in 2012.

Hungary and Serbia are to discuss the fence at a meeting on 1 July.

But the Serbian PM, Alexander Vucic, immediately criticised the project.

“I am surprised and shocked”, he told the RTS broadcaster while visiting Norway on Wednesday.

“Building walls is not the solution. Serbia can't be responsible for the situation created by the migrants, we are just a transit country. Is Serbia responsible for the crisis in Syria?”.

“We’re not going to do the same to Macedonia as the Hungarians … Serbia will not build walls. It will not isolate itself”, he added.

Kitty McKinsey, a spokeswoman for the UN Refugee Agency, also attacked Hungary.

“The right to seek asylum is an inalienable human right. So we’re concerned that erecting a fence would place too many barriers to this right”, she told Reuters.

Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe’s commissioner on human rights, said the fence is “ill-advised. Focus should be on ensuring access to asylum, not impeding it”.

Xenophobia

The fence is part of a wider anti-immigrant campaign by Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban.

Authorities have put up hundreds of posters in Hungarian cities with slogans such as "If you come to Hungary, you have to respect our laws!", or, “If you come to Hungary, you can't take Hungarians' jobs!”.

Many of them have been vandalised.

A satirical group, the Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog, is planning to put up counter-billboards, including one in Orban’s home tow, Felcsut, which says: "If you are Hungary's prime minister, you must respect our laws!”.

Orban, in April, also circulated a questionnaire saying migrants are potential terrorists and that they come to “enjoy our welfare systems”.

He called a European Commission proposal, to redistribute asylum seekers from Greece and Italy, “insane”.

Meanwhile, the migrant crisis is putting a strain on EU solidarity in other places.

Italy has threatened to give boat migrants permits to travel inside the EU and France is blocking people on the Italian border.

EU leaders will devote a large part of next week’s summit to the issue.

They are expected to launch EUnavfor Med, a military operation to sink migrant smugglers’ boats, which has also attracted UN criticism.

Fortress EU

The fortress Europe mentality was highlighted in a report, Migrant Files, published by a consortium of journalists and academics on Wednesday.

It says EU states, as well as Iceland, Swizterland, and Norway, spent €11.3 billion on deporting people in the past 15 years.

It says EU states also spent €1.6 billion on border control, including €10 million on walls around Spanish enclaves in Morocco and €17 million by Italy on equipment for Libyan border guards.

It estimates migrants paid people smugglers €15.7 billion to bring them to the EU in the same period.

It adds the deportations and security measures have "done nothing to deter refugees from attempting to reach Europe”.

Opinion

Don't fence me in

Razor-wire round Serbia risks destabilising the region and making "Fortress Europe" a grimly visible reality.

Hungary to hold referendum on EU migration plan

Hungary's government has initiated a referendum on the EU's migrants quota plan, PM Viktor Orban said Wednesday. Hungary, along with Slovakia, has already challenged the plan at the EU's top court.

EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'

EU states ought to undergo a yearly "Rule of Law Review Cycle" to help stop countries such as Hungary, Poland, and Romania from backsliding on EU norms, the European Commission has said.

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Survey: 50% of EU staff 'don't know' internal ethics rules
  2. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  3. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  4. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  5. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  6. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  7. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  8. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us