Hungary adopts law allowing construction of fence against immigrants
Reuters reports that the Hungarian Parliament adopted a law on 6 July tightening conditions for granting asylum and allowing the construction of a fence on the border with Serbia to halt the influx of immigrants entering the country illegally. The new law shortens the time for evaluating asylum requests and facilitates the rejection of applications from immigrants who have passed through a so-called "safe country" where they were not in serious danger while fleeing, for example, Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria.
The Council of Europe and United Nations have criticized the law. The international organizations say it weakens protections for refugees in Hungary.
The state will begin construction of the fence on the border to halt the illegal infiltration of immigrants from Serbia into Hungary over the couse of the next few months, starting construction at more than one place simultaneously, according to Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó. The fence will be four meters high and 175 kilometers long and will "protect Hungary and the European Union from the unexpectedly high pressure of illegal immigration", according to the minister.
Szijjártó clarified that Hungarian Police have arrested 68 000 people this year so far who entered the country illegally. Belgrade has taken exception to the building of the fence.
The governments of both countries met on Wednesday in Budapest to discuss the plan and how to solve problems related to the wave of refugees coming to Hungary through Serbia. Hungarian PM Vitor Orbán assured his Serbian colleage Aleksandar Vučic that the fence is not targeting against Serbs and does not mean the border is closed.
New crossings on the border with Serbia are to be erected and the existing ones expanded. Montserrat Feixas Vihé, the Central European regional head of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, which is headquartered in Budapest, has spoken out against the fence.
In a statement, Vihé said the move would make asylum-seekers more vulnerable to human traffickers and smugglers. She said the UNHCR is also disturbed by the accelerated asylum proceedings, by Hungary sending asylum-seekers back to dangerous third countries, and by the expanded use of detention with respect to asylum-seekers, children and women in particular.
Meanwhile, english.cntv.cn, the Chinese national web-based TV broadcaster, reports that a radically different approach to immigration is underway in Budapest's centrally-located 8th district, described in its report as a "melting pot" of Africans, Arabs, Chinese, Roma and Turks. Volunteers from the "Roma Informal Education Foundation" are giving guided tours of the neighborhood on a weekly basis for foreign nationals and Hungarians alike.
English.cntv.cn calls the volunteer project "No small feat given the longstanding history of persecution Romas have faced throughout Europe". A video clip about the tours is available here.
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