This Wednesday, Hungary was the subject of criticism from European officials after the nation announced plans to construct a 110-mile long, 4-meter high fence along their border with Serbia in an attempt to stem the flow of migrants streaming into the country.
Hungary is in the middle of the European Union’s no-visa zone, so it can be an attractive place to be for impoverished migrants attempting to reach Europe from Africa or the Middle East.
“The EU’s countries seek a solution [to the migrant crisis]… but Hungary cannot afford to wait any longer,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said in a press conference.
According to Szijjártó, the preparations for the construction project will be completed within the week.
Nearly 60,000 migrants illegally entered the country so far this year, a marked increase from the 40,000 illegal immigrants from last year.
Almost 95 percent of those migrants come in through the Serbia-Hungary border, because Serbia is not a member of the EU and, therefore, does not have the same migration laws to which other member states are subject.
The Hungarian government has designated various other EU member states, or states which are candidates for EU membership, as “safe countries” where immigrants could travel instead of staying in Hungary.
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić told reporters he was “surprised and shocked” by the decision to close the border and that he would need to talk to his Hungarian counterparts about his concerns over the planned project.
Not everyone in Serbia condemned the proposed border fence. Politicians speaking on behalf of Serbia’s significant Hungarian minority defended the fence plan as necessary for the protection of Hungary’s national integrity.
Outside of Serbia, many other European officials have also criticized the proposed project.
“The migrant has become a pawn in [Hungarian Prime Minister] Orban’s political fight with the EU,” Thomas Huddleston, a program director for a Brussels-based migration policy group, said. “The rhetoric is extremely virulent and xenophobic where the refugee is being portrayed as a terrorist who is going to take the Hungarians’ jobs, livelihoods and welfare.”
The United Nations Refugee Committee condemned the construction of the border fence, saying that it would “place too many barriers” on the “inalienable human right” to seek asylum.
The Hungarian government remains defiant, however, and the project remains on track.
“Immigration is one of the most serious problems facing the European Union today,” Szijjártó said.
Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán has previously called the migrant crisis as “a threat to European civilization.”
“If we make a mistake now, it’s forever,” the 52-year-old politician said.