Top Of Hungary #1: Migrant Crisis And Southern Border Closure
Tamás Székely 2015.12.31.
Our “Top of Hungary 2015″ series aims to represent fifteen episodes of the the year, which – according to our assessment – played an important role in the public, cultural or sport life of Hungary during the last twelve months. Regardless of the positive or negative aspects, we have evaluated the events separately, therefore our list reflects nothing more but the personal opinion of the editorial team.
The most important episode of 2015 in Hungary: Immigration Crisis and Southern Border Closure
In 2015 a total of 1.5 million illegal migrants made their way to Europe, 400,000 of whom had passed through Hungary. In order to ease the pressure, the Hungarian government started to construct a 3,5-metre-tall fence on the country’s 175-kilometre-long border with Serbia in June. Although the aim was to ensure border security by preventing immigrants from entering illegally and forcing them to enter through official checkpoints in accordance with the EU law, the Hungarian border fence triggered harsh international criticism.
As long as the barrier was not completed, tens of thousands of migrants reached Budapest, invading main areas of the Hungarian capital, including the Keleti railway station. The desperate “guests” were protesting in front of the station, demanding trains that take them to Germany. After days of chaos, large groups of migrants decided to leave Budapest on foot, marching towards Austria on the M1 motorway.
As soon as the border fence was completed on 14 September, thousands of migrants got stuck in Serbia. Two days later a violent group of migrants attempted to break trough the gates at the Horgos-Röszke border crossing point, throwing rocks and stones, however, the Hungarian border guards repulsed the attack. Hungary was once again widely criticized in the international media for its use of tear gas and water cannon against migrants attempting to enter the country.
In the following weeks, the migrants tried to find new ways to pass through the country, however, on 16 October, the Hungarian government announced that it had completed the fence along the border with Croatia as well. Since 17 October onward, thousands of migrants daily were diverted to Croatia and Slovenia instead of Hungary. As a result of the Southern border closure, attempted illegal border crossings to Hungary fell from the 138,396 total for the month of September to few hundreds in November.