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Hungarian police to assist Serbia on Macedonian border

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungarian police will help patrol the Serbia-Macedonia border to try to stem the flow of migrants and refugees attempting to reach the European Union, officials said Monday.

Hungarian police chief Karoly Papp said that 20 officers and four mobile thermal cameras would be deployed from next week on Serbia’s southern border with Macedonia, from where hundreds of migrants and refugees are crossing daily.

Traveling north across Serbia, refugees request asylum once they reach Hungary but most of them move further west to countries like Austria and Germany within the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone before their petitions are resolved. About 60,000 people have entered Hungary illegally this year, nearly all from Serbia.

Papp, who met Monday with Serbian police director Milorad Veljovic in the Hungarian city of Szeged, near the Serbian border, also said Hungarian, Serbian and Austrian police would cooperate in efforts to crack down on human traffickers.

Last week, Hungary said it planned to build a 4-meter (13-foot) high fence on its 175-kilometer (109-mile) border with Serbia to stem the flow of migrants.

Specifics about the fence, which would be built by the Hungarian police and military, are expected to be known Wednesday after the government hears a report about the expected costs, proposed route, construction timetable and other details.

Serbia has been very critical of the plan. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said last week he was “shocked and surprised” by Hungary’s intentions and that the fence “cannot and will not happen.” The two governments will hold a joint Cabinet meeting in Budapest on July 1.

The New York-based Human Right Watch advocacy group also contested the fence.

The fence “risks trapping people in Serbia, where Human Rights Watch documented serious abuses against migrants and asylum seekers by Serbian police and flaws in the asylum system,” the group said. “The country that helped tear down the Iron Curtain in 1989 is building a new one.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said his country would defend the EU’s external borders from illegal immigration.

“It is a crime and Hungary does not allow crimes to be committed at its borders,” Orban said Friday in Bratislava, Slovakia.

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