Hungary’s neighbours join anti-migrant border patrols
Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia back Hungary’s tough line on refugee crisis
Migrants and refugees walk to board a bus after crossing the Greek-Macedonian border, near Gevgelija on Thursday. Photograph: Robert Atanasovski/AFP/Getty
Central European interior ministers will call for tough measures today to restrict the flow of migrants into the region, in joint efforts to tighten Hungary’s borders as an example for future EU frontier operations.
Poland has dispatched a helicopter and the Czech Republic is sending at least 25 soldiers to help Hungary patrol its border with Croatia, which is now on the main route for migrants arriving from the Middle East, Africa and South and Central Asia.
“If we . . . can set an example for Europe, then there is a chance that the EU will follow this example,” said Zsolt Nemeth, head of the Hungarian parliament’s foreign relations committee.
Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are expected to jointly defend a hard line on security and proposed refugee “quotas” when EU interior and foreign ministers meet today.
The fence forced migrants to reroute through Croatia, which in response created a transit camp through which new arrivals quickly move before boarding buses and trains to other parts of the Hungarian border, bypassing the fence and infuriating Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban.
Croatia says more than 125,000 migrants have entered the country in the past three weeks and more are arriving from Serbia at a rate of about 6,000 each day; more than 90 per cent leave within 24 hours, almost all of them to Hungary.
Hungary has nearly completed a fence along its border with Croatia and says it will close it if too many people cross the frontier and if Austria and Germany fail to agree to create a “corridor” migrants could use to transit Hungarian territory.
Austria is under pressure with the large numbers crossing the country from Hungary to Germany, and public disquiet over the crisis has strengthened the far-right, anti-immigration Freedom Party ahead of mayoral elections in Vienna this weekend.
Mr Orban visited Austria recently, and analysts say he was urged not to close the fence and further inflame debate about refugees during the current cycle of local elections, which have seen a strong shift to the Freedom Party.
The presidents of Hungary and Croatia met yesterday in Budapest and insisted the crisis would not poison relations between the neighbours, despite sharp exchanges between Mr Orban’s right-wing allies and centre-left Croatian premier Zoran Milanovic, who denounced Hungary’s hard-line stance.