Hungary to erect fence along border with Serbia

Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced Wednesday that the Orbán government has decided to erect a four metre fence along a 175 km stretch of border with Serbia, in order to stop the flow of refugees and migrants entering the country. Mr. Szijjártó pointed to the border between Bulgaria and Turkey as a precedent, and added that in the government’s reading, they were not contravening any international laws by sealing their border in this manner.  The government has instructed the Interior Minister, Sándor Pintér, to complete all necessary preparations for the construction of the security fence within one week.

In the first five months of the years, 54,000 migrants entered Hungary illegally, primarily through Serbia. The government estimates that this number will rise to 120,000 by the end of the year, in contrast to 40,000 illegal arrivals in 2014.

This map, produced by Hungary's Office of Immigration and Citizenship, shows the flow of migrants arriving in Hungary.

This map, produced by Hungary’s Office of Immigration and Citizenship, shows the flow of migrants arriving in Hungary. The map very much highlights that Hungary remains a transit country.

A in-depth report published by the liberal news site Index on security fences used in other countries, it was noted that these measures often come hand-in-hand with brutality on the part of border guards and police officers. Bulgaria began re-building its fence along a 200 km stretch of Turkish border in 2014, just 10 years after dismantling the remnants of the iron curtain. That’s when Bulgaria had joined NATO and it removed the barrier, primarily as a symbolic gesture. The construction of the fence proved to be a much longer and more expensive project than initially expected. The government planned to spent 2.6 million euros on the first phase, but this amount wasn’t anywhere nearly enough to erect the first 30 km stretch. But according to Bulgarian authorities, it has been worth every penny. They managed to decrease the number of illegal immigrants from 11,000 to 6,000 between 2013 and 2014.

Police brutality, however, has also been a reality. It is believed that two refugees from Iraq were beaten to death by Bulgarian police. Many other refugees have shared experiences of beatings from Bulgarian police and border guards.

Greece has also erected a security fence along its border with Turkey, also 3 metres high, like the barrier on the Bulgarian side. As  well, crossing the border illegally into Greece carries a 6-month jail sentence and a fine of up to 10,000 euros.

Péter Tarjányi, a security expert, told the online news site that erecting a barbed wire fence  with all the necessary electronic alarm mechanisms and infra-red gates would require significant on-going spending and up-keep each year. A simple barbed wire fence would not suffice on its own. Rather, Hungary would have to erect a complex system of physical defences and barriers.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee observed that there was nothing stopping the Orbán government from erecting such a fence on Hungarian territory. Refugees will likely seek other places to cross into the European Union, and some of these may be more dangerous than escaping through the friendlier terrain of the Hungarian Great Plains. As such, more refugees may end up dying during their quest for asylum.

It’s worth noting that the erection of the fence is a unilateral move on the part of the Orbán government. Plans were in place for a summit with Serbia in July, but it appears as though Hungary will proceed with the construction of a security fence even before this meeting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *