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Could Hungary build a wall on its Serbian border?

Crops

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The Hungarian government is considering strengthening defenses on its southern border, possibly even with a “wall,” according to footage released by Hungarian online daily index.hu of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán answering questions. Orbán made the off-the-cuff comments Monday on a visit to the southern city of Szeged. 

Answering a question by state-owned news portal hirado.hu during a press conference yesterday, Orbán makes the following statement in the video clip:

“We have a strategy, we have a plan for defending the country, which includes the protection of borders, and the physical defense of the border… The strengthening of the southern border is inevitable; the building of a new wall - fence - is inevitable, which needs to be up-to-date, modern and efficient.”

The video is available at this link (in Hungarian). 

Although it is not yet certain whether the Hungarian government might be planning to build an actual “wall” – the PM immediately added the word “fence” afterwards, so it might just be a slip of the tongue on his part – government communications have been talking of “increased migrant pressure” at the southern edges of the country lately, suggesting the strengthening of the border in some form is highly likely in any case.

In continuing what has become a consistent theme in recent times, György Bakondi, the chief security advisor to the PM, said on Sunday: “Despite the efforts of the European Union’s member states, the past two days have seen one of the most intensive movements of illegal border crossers of 2017 along the Serbian stretch of the border,” according to government website kormany.hu. He added that “192 attempts to illegally cross the border were registered on Friday, of which 159 were prevented and 33 migrants were accompanied back across the border. [...] On Saturday, 178 people tried to enter Hungary illegally.”

According to the chief security advisor, “immigration is occurring en masse and is persistent, illegal and organized, and often violent, in addition to which huge numbers of migrants are waiting in Asia and Africa.” When the refugee crisis peaked in 2015 and Hungary had not yet raised its fence, thousands of refugees arrived in the country on a daily basis.

Bakondi said in mid-January that, due to misinformation spread by “civil organizations” that Hungary is opening up its borders, more and more migrants have set off from Belgrade towards Hungary. “Desperate migrants are misinformed at this moment; therefore, they are violently besieging the Hungarian border from the direction of Serbia in groups.” 

The Hungarian Police has also been reported to be recruiting so-called “border hunters,” a special contingent of border patrols, in secondary schools, with the government saying there is “increased migrant pressure” on the Hungarian-Serbian border. 

This weekend, Minister of Justice László Trócsányi said in an interview with The Times of Malta, that “if the external borders of the European Union are not reinforced, the mass flow of immigrants could lead to the building of walls between member states,” according to kormany.hu. Trócsányi defended the government’s decision to build a fence along its southern border to stop the wave of migrants arriving from Turkey, a communication which might also point towards the further strengthening of the fence on the Hungarian-Serbian border, the southernmost boundary of the Schengen Area, at the same time.

Orbán was visiting Szeged to sign the latest agreement in the Modern Cities Program, under which cities receive financial support for infrastructure projects from the government.

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