Hungary has unveiled plans to build a fence along its border with Serbia as part of an anti-immigration drive, saying it "cannot afford to wait any longer" for the European Union to come up with a solution to the migration crisis.
"The Hungarian Government has instructed the Interior Ministry to physically close the border with Serbia," said Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, adding that preparations would be completed within a week.
The fence would be 4m high, 180km long, and may have barbed wire, officials said.
Hungary is one of the main points of entry for migrants into the Schengen passport-free zone and is seeing an increase in migration, with about 57,000 people entering the country illegally so far this year, up from 43,000 in all of 2014. Ninety-five per cent cross from Serbia, which is not a member of the EU but has started accession talks. Last year, Hungary received more refugees per capita than any other EU country, apart from Sweden.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Leaching voters to the far-right party Jobbik, the Government has lost patience with efforts in Brussels to reach a solution to the surging inflows into the EU. Viktor Orban, the Prime Minister, has said a proposal to distribute migrants evenly throughout the 28 member states "borders on insanity", while Szijjarto has dismissed the EU's "rather long and time-consuming" negotiations.
But the fence plan drew immediate condemnation at home and abroad, evoking memories of the days of the Iron Curtain. The United Nations Refugee Agency said it would "place too many barriers" to the "inalienable human right" to seek asylum. "This is a very obvious diversionary tactic", said a former diplomat in the region. "There are many social and economic problems here. There are four million people (40 per cent of Hungary's population) living in poverty."
The move will be unpopular with EU border agency Frontex, which criticised a recent Bulgarian fencing project along its border with Turkey.
Antidote to anti-immigration
A counter-campaign to the Hungarian Government's anti-immigration billboards will adorn the capital with slogans such as "Come to Hungary by all means: we're already working in London!"
New arrivals in Budapest will be greeted by English-language billboards bearing slogans such as, "If you come to Hungary, bring another person with you." The 1000-billboard campaign was masterminded by Gerg Kovacs, the leader of spoof political Two Tailed Dog Party, who received $170,000 in crowd-funding. He said: "We want to show visitors that a lot of people here don't think like the Government, that we don't hate you, or each other."