Hungary defends border fences blocking migrants

Hungarian soldiers set up a barbed wire fence on the Slovenian-Hungarian border in Pince, Slovenia on September 25, 2015.
Hungarian soldiers set up a barbed wire fence on the Slovenian-Hungarian border in Pince, Slovenia on September 25, 2015. AFP

Hungary’s foreign minister dismissed criticism of the country’s razor-wire border fences at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday, pointing to other countries that use walls to curb illegal immigration.


in New York

"Critics of Hungary are unfair and unjust," Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said. "We're not doing it for fun. It's not the first fence built and if we're going to be criticised then others should also be criticised," he said, pointing to the US southern border fence with Mexico or Greece's border with Turkey.

Szijjarto said that the 3.5-metre-high fence was designed to protect the open-border European Union Schengen zone, arguing that as a peripheral state of the 26-nation area, Hungary needs to protect its border with non-Schengen countries.

He also called for the United Nations to set global quotas on accepting migrants, saying it was unfair for Europe to take so many refugees fleeing Syria.

"We suggest that all major players should bear some burden. We should introduce some world quotas," Szijjarto told reporters.

Pressed for details on this proposition, Szijjarto said only that secure borders remained Hungary’s priority.

“Until we get control of our borders, it doesn’t make sense to talk about numbers,” he said.

Hungary has seen almost 300,000 migrants enter the country this year alone in the hope of travelling on to Germany or other northern European nations. Europe’s huge influx of migrants, the biggest since World War II, has exposed deep rifts in the continent about where the newcomers should go and what should be done to stem the flow.

‘Criminal’ fence

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says he is acting to save Europe's "Christian values" by blocking the main overland route used by mainly Muslim refugees through the Balkans.

“Our borders are in danger, our way of life built on respect for the law, Hungary and the whole of Europe is in danger,” he said last week.

Hungary's right-wing government sealed off its border with Serbia on September 15 and with migrants now travelling through Croatia, the government has since started building a fence along sections of the border with that country too.

Hungary’s actions have not been received warmly by many of the countries it is claiming to protect. On September 16 a German company that produces barbed wire said that it had refused to sell the product to the Hungarian authorities, saying “razor wire is for criminals”. Unlike other types of barbed wire, razor wire is specifically designed to tear into clothing and flesh.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has described the developments as "extremely concerning".

"We should not be building fences or walls, but above all we must look at root causes, in countries of origin," added Ban.

His comments came a day after the Hungarian parliament passed a law allowing soldiers to fire rubber bullets at people trying to cross the border.

Meanwhile, Serbia chartered free buses and trains to help the migrants – most of them from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – to reach Germany and beyond.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning