Migrant crisis: Hungary to deploy military to secure borders

Hungary’s PM says Europe’s borders threatened by migration, united EU stance needed

Hungary’s parliament authorised the government on Monday to deploy the army to help handle a migrant crisis, granting the military the right to deploy a range of non-lethal force.

It passed a law saying the army could use rubber bullets, pyrotechnical devices, tear gas grenades or net guns, according to the text posted on parliament‘s website.

Hungary, a landlocked nation of 10 million, lies in the path of the largest migration wave Europe has seen since World War Two.

It has registered more than 220,000 asylum seekers this year, a wave Budapest has said it would do everything to deflect.


Prime minister Viktor Orban told parliament that police were unable to secure Hungary's borders with Serbia and Croatia - outer borders of the EU's passport-free Schengen zone - without help from the army.

“We can defend the Serbian stretch of the border,” he said, adding that fortifications at the 175-kilometre Hungary-Serbia border were working better than expected.

“Our borders are under threat, our life based on a respect for laws...and the whole of Europe. We are being run over,”

He reiterated that the migrant quotas proposed by Brussels were not a “European action plan” as first the borders must be protected and the flow of migrants stopped.

Hungary completed that border fence and deployed regular patrols, leading to a drastic drop of migrants crossing that stretch of the border and entering Croatia instead. Unable to cope, Zagreb has waved the migrants on to Hungary again.

Croatia is not a member of Schengen, and the two countries have exchanged bitter words over the handling of the migrant crisis, with Budapest threatening a veto of Croatia’s Schengen accession and beginning work on a border fence there too.

“We can defend the Croatian stretch but to do that we need the army to patrol together with the police,” Mr Orban said.

He added Hungary would act on its own until the EU finds common ground to stem the flow of migrants.

“Europe is rich but weak. That is the most dangerous combination possible,” Mr Orban said. “The result ... is catastrophic. Because Europe cannot defend its external borders, internal borders are shut again.”

“We need to rethink many European inventions, institutions and treaties. But until we do we cannot sit idle. Until the EU states act as one, member states will be forced to go out of their way to fend off this brutal threat.”

Earlier, Croatia said it would demand that Greece stop moving migrants from the Middle East on to the rest of Europe, interior minister Ranko Ostojic said on Monday.

“The flow of migrants from Greece must be stopped. I will seek that at tomorrow’s meeting of EU interior ministers,” Mr Ostojic told reporters at Opatovac camp near the eastern town of Tovarnik.

“It is absolutely unacceptable to have Greece emptying its refugee camps and sending people towards Croatia via Macedonia and Serbia,” Mr Ostojic said.

His comments come as the foreign ministers from four central European countries met to discuss the crisis on Monday. This meeting will be followed by a meeting of EU interior ministers on Tuesday followed by an extraordinary summit of European leaders on Wednesday.

Earlier French president Francois Hollande said in the EU "no-one can be exempt" from taking in people with the right to asylum, while European Council president Donald Tusk said the EU should help Syrian refugees to "a better life closer to their homes".

The head of the European Parliament said on Monday he expects EU interior ministers to agree on a voluntary scheme to relocate 160,000 migrants at their meeting on Tuesday.

"There will be some discussions, but at the end there will be an agreement on the relocation of the 160,000 (migrants)", Martin Schulz told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has called on other European leaders to accept joint responsibility to cope with the continent's worst migration crisis since World War Two at an emergency summit at Wednesday.

A proposal being argued over ahead of the meeting of EU interior ministers on Tuesday would, if agreed, relocate 120,000 asylum seekers over the next two years around the whole bloc.

European Council president Donald Tusk, who chairs European Union summits, said on Twitter on Sunday following a weekend visit to Jordan and Egypt that the EU needed to help Syrian refugees find a better life closer at home.

On Sunday Hungary erected a steel gate and fence posts at a border crossing with Croatia, the EU’s newest member state.

Overwhelmed by an influx of some 25,000 migrants this week, Croatia has been sending them north by bus and train to Hungary, which has waved them on to Austria.

The influx of migrants, most of them fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, has led to bitter recriminations between European governments while the temporary closure of national borders has undermined one of the most tangible achievements of the Union.