hungary-serbia border

Hungary’s anti-immigrant fence widely condemned

Four-meter tall 175-kilometer-long fence with Serbia has been proposed

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Cécile Pouilly has joined voices condemning Hungary’s announced plan to build a fence to keep out refugees entering the country.

Hungarian officials said on June 17 that the country plans to build a wall along the 175 km border between it and Serbia.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said his country was not willing to wait for the EU to solve the  problem of immigrants flocking to Europe.

The UN High Commissioner was critical of Hungary’s “xenophobic rhetoric.”

“We are deeply concerned about the announcement made this week by the Government of Hungary that it is preparing to erect a four-meter-high fence to seal its 175-kilometer border with Serbia. If adopted, this measure may prevent asylum seekers, who may be in need of international protection, from accessing Hungarian territory,” Pouilly said through a spokesperson.

“Such harsh border enforcement measures may also force migrants to adopt more risky routes and modes of transport, putting them at greater risk of abuse by traffickers and smugglers. We have noted in the past the need for European governments to display leadership and compassion in their migration policies,” she added.

Her office has expressed consternation before.

“We reiterate our concerns at the anti-migrant xenophobic rhetoric that is being disseminated by the Hungarian Government, most recently through an anti-migration billboard campaign. One of the Government’s posters reads: ‘If you come to Hungary, you cannot take away Hungarians’ jobs.’ Such assertions contradict the evidence, which is that migrants – particularly low-skilled migrants – are needed in European labor markets, doing the difficult jobs that no one else wants to do. On 22 May, we publicly criticized a questionnaire on immigration sent by the Government to its citizens in which unfounded links were sought to be made between migration and terrorism,” her statement said.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić also condemned the proposed fence, according to media reports. “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?” he said on a TV show while in Oslo.

The Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muizniek took to Twitter to described the planned fence as “ill-advised,” and say that “focus should be on ensuring access to asylum, not impeding it.”

EU spokesperson for migration Natasha Bertau pointed out the obvious. “We have only recently taken down walls in Europe — we should not be putting them up,” she said.

Hungary has become a transit country for people who enter Europe via Greece. So far this year an estimated 54,000 migrants entered Hungary, compared to 43,000 people in 2014, according to government figures.

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