BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The Hungarian government is considering building a 4-meter-high (13-foot-high) fence along the border with Serbia to stop the flow of migrants reaching the country, the foreign minister said Wednesday.
The government has asked Interior Minister Sandor Pinter to present preparations for the plan by next Wednesday.
“The Hungarian government is committed to defending Hungary and defending the Hungarian people from the immigration pressure,” Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said. “Hungary cannot allow itself to wait any longer. Naturally, we hope there will be a joint European solution.”
Szijjarto said the fence along the 175-kilometer (109-mile) southern border with Serbia wouldn’t contravene any of Hungary’s international legal obligations. He said that the governments of Hungary and Serbia would hold a summit on July 1, when “we will inform our Serb friends … in detail of the Hungarian measures.”
For their part, Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic called on the EU to help his country guard its borders from the migrant surge.
“I’m asking all EU states to make an additional effort to protect Serbia’s borders from where the migrants are coming, because they come from the EU countries — Greece and Bulgaria,” Stefanovic said.
Hungary’s foreign minister also said that, in line with a bill presented last week by lawmakers from the governing Fidesz party, the government was taking legal preliminary steps to designate all EU member and candidate countries as safe countries.
This step would allow Hungary, for example, from having to receive asylum seekers coming from Serbia or Greece, countries not considered by the EU to have the infrastructure necessary to guarantee their safety.
Szijjarto named the Greek-Turkish and the Bulgarian-Turkish borders as locations where similar fences have been built with the purpose of stopping migrants.
Since the second half of 2014, the number of migrants and asylum seekers entering Hungary, mostly across the southern border with Serbia, has risen markedly.
So far this year, more than 53,000 people have requested asylum in Hungary, up from under 43,000 in 2014 and 2,150 in 2012. More than 70 percent of asylum seekers over the past three months are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, though the vast majority move further west to destinations like Germany and Sweden shortly after filing their asylum requests.
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