2014-12-22 11:48:00

Hungary's New Refugee Crisis

(Vatican Radio) Hungarian villages near the border with Serbia are overwhelmed by refugees. Hungary appears to be the choice of a growing group of asylum seekers to enter the European Union with the Mediterranean Sea becoming too treacherous and other routes blocked by barbed-wire fences.

After thousands of children, women and men died in the Mediterranean over the past quarter century and more countries increase border security, it's now Hungary's turn.

Frontex, the European Union's border agency, says the Western Balkan route into Hungary has grown more attractive after Greek authorities greatly increased their vigilance at the Evros land crossing with Turkey two years ago. And Bulgaria this year also installed a huge barbed-wire fence along on its border with Turkey.

Listen to the report by correspondent Stefan Bos:

Hungarian authorities say every week hundreds to thousands of often exhausted refugees, including children, arrive in the country. Roughly half of them come from Kosovo, the rest from other countries, including Syria and Afghanistan.

Hungarian villagers near the border with Serbia are desperate. In one Hungarian village, Asotthalom, the mayor even claims the situation "has become practically unbearable" and that rangers spend most of their time picking up migrants.


That's a far cry from 2004, when Hungary joined the European Union and just 34 people crossed the border illegally. A decade later later, border police say they launched procedures against 26,000 people in this year alone. At the same time the number of asylum seekers increased in 2014 to 35,000, nearly twice as much as last year.

Many of them try to travel to Germany or other Western nations.

Rights activists say many refugees, even those fleeing persecution don't, receive a warm welcome in Hungary.

The country has seen protests this year, including outside a refugee camp in the city of Debrecen where activists say asylum seekers are treated as criminals.

They expressed their solidarity with asylum seekers held in detention.


Among the protesters was Gibril Deen, founder of the Budapest-based Mahatma Gandhi Human Rights Organization, which fight for the rights of migrants and refugees.

"Asylum seekers fled their country for political reasons, because of ethnic reasons and because of religious reasons.  So we are totally condemning the so-called isolated camps," he said.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said he was against "liberal migration policies."

Wealthier people are more welcome: Those who purchase Hungarian bonds for 250,000 euros receive a residence permit and a Hungarian passport, effectively a ticket to border less travel across the European Union. 

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