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Electrified Fence Keeps Hungary-Bound Migrants Away

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Budapest says the new fence will deter the expected surge in migrant numbers.

Hungary, the first EU country to put up border fences during the migrant crisis, is building a stronger line of defense against migrants, even though their numbers have fallen dramatically.

Work has begun on a new fence parallel to the existing one along the Serbian border. Reuters reports that the fence will be equipped with cameras and motion sensors and will be able to deliver a mild electric shock to anyone trying to get through.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto explained that the barrier is needed in order to fend off rising migrant numbers expected to appear “at any moment” along Hungary’s southern frontier, The Associated Press reports.

Hungary built the first fence on the Serbian border in 2015, at the height of the migrant crisis that saw hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees streaming across the Balkans and Hungary to Western Europe. Other nearby countries also erected barriers, helping stem the flow by in effect forcing Greece to absorb many more migrants than its camps could accommodate.

The EU border agency Frontex estimates that the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea fell by two-thirds in 2016, but according to Janos Lazar, the Hungarian government’s chief of staff, “the government believes that there is still a potential threat to Hungary."

Six kilometers of the new fence are in place. The remainder of the 150-kilometer fence is expected to be completed by May. Recorded warnings in English, Arabic, and Farsi inform people who approach the fence they can legally enter Hungary only at two transit zones, where a total of just 10 migrants is permitted through each day, Reuters says.

Hungary’s practices, including using force to keep migrants from crossing the fences and plans to prevent asylum seekers from leaving reception camps have drawn harsh criticism from both EU officials and NGOs.

•The use of prisoners to build the new fence could draw criticism from the EU, Britain’s tabloid Express says.

•According to a 2016 U.S. State Department report, refugees in Hungary are at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking, and the government had not been effective in dealing with this issue.

•In a government-backed referendum in October, a huge majority of Hungarians rejected the EU’s mandatory migrant resettlement scheme. Low turnout rendered the referendum invalid.

Compiled by Mate Mohos

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