The Curtain Falls Again

The curtain falls: closing the last gap in the border.

Closing the final gap in the Hungarian-Serbian border (photo: Orange Files).

On this night the “new era” begins: the Orbán government is closing the final gap in the Hungarian-Serbian border fence, the place where the now defunct Szabadka-Szeged railway crosses the frontier, the place where tens of thousands of refugees have entered Hungary over the past few weeks en route to the West. The news has spread quickly among the tens of thousands more who are still on their way: Hungary will seal its border on midnight of September 14–15. The push to make it to the frontier before this hour has been intense, a massive forced march up the railway and dusty trackside roads in northern Serbia: the UNHCR official at the border says that his people counted around 29,000 refugees crossing the frontier into Hungary over the previous two days.

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Below is an Orange Files video of the closing of the border made from the Serbian side.


Hungary and the Great Migration


Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (photo: EPA).

On September 15, 2015 the Orbán government will close the remaining gap in the Hungarian-Serbian border and begin to either incarcerate or expel migrants who traverse the razor-wire fence that has been erected along this frontier.

The government is establishing three large extraterritorial “transit zones” near the location at which migrants have been streaming into Hungary from Serbia over the past weeks in order to quickly process asylum requests from those who cross the fence after September 15.

Since the government considers all migrants who pass into Hungary from Serbia to be economic immigrants rather than refugees on the grounds that they have not fled war in the latter country, virtually none of them will receive asylum. Those who do not receive asylum will be immediately expelled from Hungary back to Serbia.

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The Fields Are Speaking Pashto

This field is speaking Pashto.

The murmur of strange tongues.

The fields are speaking Pashto here in southern Hungary along the border with Serbia. And Arabic and Dari and Urdu. The murmur of these languages in the shrubs and scrubby meadows, in the trees along the roadside ditches, amid the stalks of corn and sunflower. Everywhere the now familiar sounds of unfamiliar words, spoken quietly, asking “what to do? where to go?—when to make a run for the next hiding place?”

As the refugees stream into Hungary along the railway line that is the lone remaining gap in the razor-wire fence erected along the entire length of the border with Serbia, the many who know some English speak as one: “We no want to give fingerprint in Hungary. We want to go to Germany (or Sweden or Norway or Holland). We no want to stay here.”

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Fortress Hungary

Security fence along Bulgaria's border with Turkey (photo: Reuters).

Security fence along Bulgaria’s border with Turkey (photo: Reuters).

On June 17, 2015, Minister of External Economy and Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó announced that the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had initiated construction of a four-meter-high fence along the entire 175-kilometer length of the Hungarian-Serbian border in order to obstruct the flow of illegal immigrants into Hungary from Serbia.

The number of immigrants seeking asylum in Hungary has increased dramatically over the past two years, rising from 18,900 in 2013 to 42,777 in 2014 and 24,000 in the first two months of 2015. Most of these asylum-seekers have been from Kosovo, though an increasing number of them are from other countries, notably Syria and Afghanistan (source in English).

Most of those seeking asylum in Hungary arrive to the country illegally via Turkey, Greece, Macedonia and, finally, Serbia. A total of 54,000 people entered Hungary illegally in the first five months of 2015, or about 360 per day (source in Hungarian).

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