We thought we were funny when we wrote last week: “We suggest the implementation of a wall with electronic surveillance equipment and electric current to deter would be immigrants. Land mines and self-shooting equipment would have to be installed as well. Maybe, some of the experts who built the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall are still among us. Their know-how would be highly appreciated.”
It seems, however, that we were spot on. The Hungarian government decided today to erect a 4m tall fence along the 175 km long Hungarian-Serbian border. The Minister of Interior will have to prepare and present the details of the construction at the forthcoming government session next Wednesday. We guess a cost estimate will also be presented next week, as so far that is missing.
According to the Hungarian Foreign Minister, Péter Szíjjártó, the Serbian government has not been informed yet, but on 1 July there will be a government summit (whatever that means) where the issue will be discussed in detail. This indicates to us that the Hungarian government has passed the buck to Serbia without any consultation or warning. As a result, the Serbian government – which has done very little even under the current conditions to care for the migrants that only transit the country – is totally unprepared to house and feed plus process the asylum requests of tens of thousands of immigrants.
There are a number of fences that have been erected in Europe and outside recently to prevent illegal migration; therefore the Hungarian fence would not be something unprecedented. It would represent – if it is built at the end, and is not merely a card in a bluffing game – a move in the fairly impolite and unpolished chess game among EU border states that try to divert the inflow of immigrants to “anywhere else but here”. The calculation of the Hungarian government is very simple: if the Serbian – Hungarian border is closed, those looking for a better life will have to try to find another route to reach their lands of dreams, for example via Bosnia, then Croatia and Slovenia, finally Austria. Until another fence is erected somewhere along that route as well.
We believe that while fences can prevent migrants from moving along a route temporarily, building fences is not curing the issue; it just deals with the symptoms. Unless Europe finds a common solution – which must necessarily include the resolution of the conflicts in the Mediterranean region – the temporary cure will only last for a short period and blow up in our face with even greater amplitude. And we should not forget that fences work easily both ways.
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