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Hungary finishes anti-refugee fence

August 30, 2015

Hungary has erected a razor-wire barrier along its border to Serbia that is designed to keep out refugees and migrants, the defense ministry says. The move has drawn international criticism.

Refugee man carrying boy near fence REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
Image: Reuters/B. Szabo

The 175-kilometer (108-mile) barrier, consisting of three rolls of razor wire, was completed two days before the scheduled completion on August 31, the Hungarian Defense Ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency MTI late on Saturday.

A second four-meter-high (13-foot) fence was already under construction by the Hungarian army to "also provide a defense against illegal border-crossers," the ministry said. That fence is due to be completed by the end of October.

The right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced in June that it would construct the fence because of the increasing number of refugees and migrants who want to enter the country, many of them fleeing conflict or poverty at home in the Middle East and Africa.

Draconian measures

Orban's government has also prepared a bill, which is likely to be approved by parliament new week, that will set out harsh penalties for people who cross the barrier. Under the proposed bill, illegally crossing the border will carry a three-year prison sentence, while damaging the fence will incur five years in jail. The bill also envisages an internment zone for refugees in the border zone.

Refugee family being arrested REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
Refugees entering Hungary often receive a harsh welcomeImage: Reuters/B. Szabo

Some 10,000 migrants have crossed the border from Serbia to Hungary this week alone. The border is also being controlled by some 1,000 border police, whose number is to swell to 3,000 from September 1, according to the government.

Hungary is seen by many refugees as a gateway to the European Union and its visa-free Schengen zone, with most of them hoping to travel on and apply for asylum in western European countries such as Germany and Sweden.

So far this year, the country has intercepted more than 140,000 refugees coming over the border from non-EU Serbia.

tj/bk (AFP, AP, dpa)