Hungary is planning to build a second fence on its southern border with Serbia to keep out any major new wave of refugees, Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced.
A 500km barrier – a razor-wire fence – was built last year along Hungary’s border with Serbia and Croatia after the country witnessed an increase of refugees moving up from the Balkans towards northern Europe.
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Stricter border patrols and the makeshift wall have led to a significant decrease in the number of refugees reaching Hungary. Last year around 400,000 migrants crossed Hungary on their way to western and northern Europe, but less than 18,000 have entered in 2016, according to official data.
“Technical planning is under way to erect a massive defence system next to the existing line of defence which was built quickly [last year],” Orban said in an interview with Hungarian public radio before adding that police presence would also be boosted to 47,000 from 44,000.
“If it doesn’t work with nice words, we’ll have to stop them with force, and we will do so.”
Hungary’s treatment of refugees has been heavily criticised over the past year.
Those who pass the Hungarian-Serbian border get stuck in a “no man’s land”, Hungarian territory that the authorities do not administer.
A recent report by Human Rights Watch cited refugees claiming that border guards beat up those who tried to make their way from “no-man’s land” into Hungary.
“Hungary is breaking all the rules for asylum seekers,” Lydia Gall, an HRW researcher, said.
“The European Commission should use its enforcement powers to press Budapest to comply with its obligation under EU law, to provide meaningful access to asylum and fair procedures for those at its borders and on its territory.”
Orban criticised the EU’s policy of taking in refugees and distributing them over its member states based on a refugee quota. He is due to meet and discuss the policy with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“The question is whether Angela Merkel will be willing to change this flawed Brussels decision and whether she is willing to fight with us for this or not,” Orban said.
Turkey and the EU are currently working together to minimise the number of refugees travelling from Turkey through the Balkans to reach Europe.
Recent tensions between the EU and Turkey have led to this deal being called into question by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
If the deal breaks down, Hungary might see an increase in refugees reaching its borders, which has prompted the plans for this second border fence.