Hungary’s Orban Vows Rigor to Seal Off Border Against Migrants

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban

Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has clashed with Austria and Germany over the handling of Europe’s immigrant crisis, pledged to seal the country’s borders, threatening illegal entrants with expulsion or arrest.

Laws passed last week will allow Hungary to imprison migrants who attempt to enter outside designated areas from Sept. 15, Orban said at a conference of Hungarian diplomats in Budapest on Monday.

“I’m therefore asking those who want to cross into Europe through Hungary: don’t come,” Orban said. “Even though the situation won’t change overnight, we will gradually achieve results and the time will come when we can tell our Austrian and German friends that Hungary’s southern borders are hermetically sealed.”

The Hungarian premier, who built a razor-wire fence along the frontier with Serbia, is hardening his line as more than 160,000 people have entered the country illegally this year. Thousands remained stuck for days at railway stations in Budapest in past weeks as the European Union has struggled to find a common solution to the influx. Orban has asserted Hungary’s right to formulate its own policies on the matter.

Those calling for a quota system to settle refugees across the EU are committing a “terrible” mistake by sending out a message that everyone is “invited,” Orban said. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced plans on Monday to spend an extra 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) on refugees next year.

Under amendments passed by Hungarian lawmakers last week, stricter penalties will apply to human smuggling and damaging the border fence. The legal changes complement earlier legislation declaring Greece, Serbia and other countries along the migrants’ route as “safe,” allowing Hungarian authorities to turn down asylum requests from people arriving from these places.

“People arriving from a refugee camp in Turkey, or coming via Serbia, Macedonia or Greece are not running for their lives,” Orban said.

Hungarian parliament is scheduled to vote on Sept. 22 on an amendment that will let the government deploy army units to the border, state-run news service MTI reported.

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