On the 21st of September, the Hungarian government voted to deploy military troops along its border, that is shared with Serbia, in order to forcefully push away the immigrants that are uninterruptedly flowing towards the 175 kilometre stretch. In addition to this extensive use of power, the passed law grants the army the ability to utilize non-lethal means such as rubber bullets, stun grenades, tear gas and net guns on immigrants that attempt to cross into Hungary. The act contains further provisions for the security forces lined up on the border. For instance, it is now a crime to damage the barbed-wire fence that divides Hungary and Serbia. One can also be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison for illegally crossing the Hungarian border. Serbia is considered, by the Hungarian government, to be a safe place for asylum seekers, therefore, they believe that immigrants can find refuge within Serbian borders.
Jobbik, the nationalist party of Hungary, backed Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government proposal which eventually led to the directive receiving 151 votes out of 199-seat parliament. Some activist groups in Hungary worry about the consequences this may bring, such as the possibility for the army to get involved in clashes with immigrants similar to the confrontations that occurred on the 16th of September between a group of migrants and the police by the Serbian town of Horgos. In this instance, the Hungarian police fired tear-gas and a water cannon at the crowd only to be met with stones and water bottles in protest against the sealing off of the border.
Viktor Orban justifies his governments actions as acts of self-defense. In his own words,
the immigrants are ‘laying siege’ to this country and ‘are not just banging at our door, they are breaking it down’.
The employment of military personnel is tremendously needed to patrol the Hungarian-Serbian border and other neighbouring nations. The new law has shocked the foreign minister of Serbia, Ivica Dacic, who affirmed his country is being ‘put behind another Iron Curtain’. However, the decision has not led to major repercussions or strong condemnation from the European Union, whose European Council President, Donald Tusk, admitted that the reaction of Hungary is the direct consequence of the inability of the overall Union to manage its external borders.
These restrictive regulations were all approved prior to a very crucial European summit on migration planned for the 22nd of September. During the meeting, with a majority vote, the European interior ministers forced through a deal which imposes that member states accept a determined quota of refugees out of a total number of 120,000 in two years. The only four countries that stubbornly voted against the resolution were Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania.
In the past months, Hungary has been widely accused of total human rights disregard when it comes to the protection of asylum seekers. Accounts of inhumane treatments inside the refugees camps, poor assistance at the borders and asylum applications allegedly rejected after 10-20 minutes from the request makes up a heinous picture that now threatens to become even worse by the implementation of the new enacted laws.