Hungary's Answer to Burgeoning Flows of Refugees: A Wall

By Chick, Kristen | The Christian Science Monitor, August 7, 2015 | Go to article overview

Hungary's Answer to Burgeoning Flows of Refugees: A Wall


Chick, Kristen, The Christian Science Monitor


At an abandoned brick factory here that has become a waystation for refugees and migrants trying to make it to Western or northern Europe, Ayoub is waiting for his chance to cross the border into Hungary.

The 18-year-old Afghan, who gave only his first name, has been traveling overland for a month, from his home in Nangarhar Province. He left his village because the Taliban made life difficult and dangerous there, and he hopes to make it to Belgium, where he has relatives.

Crossing into Hungary, within the European Union's border- control-free area, is a crucial step in his journey.

But Hungary is now building a fence in an attempt to keep people like Ayoub out. The obstacle is Hungary's answer to the explosion in the number of refugees and migrants traversing the Balkans to reach Europe this year. According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 90,000 migrants and refugees have arrived by sea to Greece so far in 2015, and many of those arrivals continue north through Macedonia, Serbia, and Hungary on their way to Germany, Sweden, or elsewhere in Europe. This is now one of the most- trafficked migration routes to Europe.

Yet it's not clear whether Hungary's fence will change that. Many such fences elsewhere have failed to stop migrants, and this one is not particularly daunting. Even if it does decrease the number of irregular crossings into Hungary, it will not stop the flow of people heading to Europe: Refugees and smugglers will simply find another route, as they have done before.

"We crossed a lot of walls. We will cross also this one," says Ayoub, with a good-natured laugh, when asked if he worried the fence would block the way for refugees. He already crossed the fence on Bulgaria's border with Turkey, with just a rip to his trousers. As for the razor wire on Hungary's fence - that is no problem, he says. "If it's sharp we put a blanket on it."

Hungary not aloneA half-hour drive away, Hungarian soldiers are working on the fence. Amid fields of corn and sunflowers, they are erecting a steel frame covered in 13-ft.-high metal mesh. At the top and bottom are coils of razor wire. Just 558 feet of the fence were completed by the last week of July, according to a military officer on the site. But Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban said last month the fence would be completed, across Hungary's entire 106- mile border with Serbia, by the end of August. The short completed section is between the two most highly trafficked crossing points, and so far has not affected the passage of migrants going north.

Mr. Orban has made clear that refugees and immigrants are not welcome in Hungary, associating them with terrorists and calling them a threat to Europe and Hungary. …

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