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Austria to help Hungary to secure EU border

June 17, 2016

Vienna has offered equipment and personnel to Budapest to help guard Hungary's border with Serbia. The fenced-off frontier is among the key points on the so-called Balkan route for illegal immigrants.

Grenze Ungarn - Serbien - Flüchtlinge
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Z. Gergely Kelemen

The two governments will set up a working group "to organize the common security of the external [EU] border" of Hungary, Austrian Defense Minister Hans Peter Doskozil said.

Doskozil and Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka met their Hungarian counterparts on Friday to discuss migration.

Vienna is ready to deploy staff and equipment to Hungarian border with Serbia, according to the Defense Ministry.

The plans might also include sending Austrian soldiers to the southeast edge of the EU, according the Austrian daily "Die Presse."

Another key topic during the talks was returning migrants from Austria to Hungary. Vienna claims that thousands of refugees had applied for asylum in Hungary but carried on their journey across the border.

Austria, however, is not currently sending migrants back since a court decision last September halted an expulsion of an Afghan family due to "inhumane conditions" in Hungary.

Over the fence

Hungarian refugee policy has been fiercely criticized by several EU countries. Faced with large numbers of people making their way along the so-called Balkan route from the Middle East and Africa to western and northern Europe last summer, Budapest decided to close off its border by building a razor-wire fence.

Austrian chancellor at the time, Werner Faymann, compared the treatment of migrants in Hungary with the prosecution of Jews in World War II, prompting a rebuke from Budapest.

On Friday, however, Hungarian Defense Minister Istvan Simicsko said the two governmentsÄ perspectives "have grown closer" during the talks.

The ministers support the values of the European passport-free Schengen zone, he said, adding that members of military police from both countries would soon cooperate on protecting the border.

The officials would meet again in a month's time in Hungary, according to the Austrian "Kurier" newspaper.

dj/sms (Reuters, AFP)