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Hungary to block passage for migrants

January 22, 2016

Migrants seeking asylum will no longer be allowed to pass through Hungary, says the country's prime minister. Hungary and Slovenia have also called for a border fence with Greece to stem refugee arrivals.

Hungarian police officers, rear, control the arrival of migrants crossing the border from Greece
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo/B. Grdanoski

Refugees will no longer be allowed to cross into Hungary, even if they are just passing through, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in an interview on Friday.

"The best migrant is the migrant who does not come. The best number is zero," Orban asserted during a state radio interview on Friday.

"The route can go any way it wants, but it is certain that it will not go through Hungary," he added, referencing the Balkan route used by asylum seekers to reach northern European states.

He also praised neighboring country Austria for their proposal to cap refugee intake - which it later backpedaled on - and only accept 127,500 migrants by 2019. "Common sense has prevailed," the Hungarian premier declared.

Hungary sealed its border with Serbia last September and with Croatia in October with a 175-kilometer (109-mile) fence topped with razor wire. Orban said his government is also ready to extend the fence to Romania.

"Europe can't take in huge masses of foreign people in an unlimited, uncontrolled manner," he insisted.

Ungarischer Premier Orban mit slowenischem Amtskollegn Cerar
Hungary's Prime Minister Orban (left) and Slovenia's Prime Minister Cerar (right) called for fences on the northern Greek border to block migrants from entering the EU via the Balkan routeImage: Getty Images/AFP/J. Makovec

Fences on Greek border

Other countries along the Balkan route such as Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia followed Austria's lead this week, declaring that only those refugees seeking asylum in Austria or Germany will be permitted to enter their territories.

During a visit to Slovenia on Friday, Orban also called for a fence on the northern-border of Greece to seal off entry to the bloc.

"If we cannot secure the outer border (of the EU), regardless of how costly or demanding that is, we will destroy the Schengen regime by ourselves," Orban said at a joint-press conference, referring to Europe's passport-free travel zone.

His Slovenian counterpart, Prime Minister Miro Cerar, agreed with the border proposal, urging the EU to come up with a unified plan of action to avoid clashes between countries before the onset of warmer spring weather.

"We do not have time until spring to find a solution. We need a solution within weeks ... if not, we can expect conflicts between countries," Cerar said at the press conference. "The (migrant) situation is entirely out of control and has nothing to do with humanitarianism, integration and help."

Over 411,000 migrants have entered Slovenia since Hungary blocked its borders in October, redirecting the flow of north-bound asylum seekers west through Slovenia.

Refugees unwelcome in Denmark

'Emergency brake' for EU states

Migration within the EU has also been a highly debated topic in recent weeks. On Friday, British Prime Minister David Cameron traveled to the Czech Republic in an attempt to garner support for his EU reform proposals ahead of a 2017 referendum. One of his most highly contested reforms seeks to limit immigration from other EU states into Great Britain.

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Friday that an alternative option for Cameron's controversial welfare reform - which would limit access to the welfare system for working EU migrants - would be to instate an "emergency brake" system.

"In my view, one of the options which could be discussed, according to the Czech Republic, is the option to give an EU member state government the possibility of an emergency brake in case of an enormous pressure on its social welfare system," he said after meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron in Prague.

The system would give EU states the right to freeze immigration from fellow EU states if its public services were overwhelmed or welfare system was being abused.

Sobotka said his government will do its best to make sure Britain remains in the EU, but recognized that "the negotiations won't be easy." He said the Czechs would support only a reform deal which is not "discriminatory" and "on the condition it won't limit free movement of workforce."

rs/kms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)