Hungary has been on the frontlines of Europe’s migrant crisis for years now, and Hungarians are tired of it. Today, a tough new law came into force there, giving border authorities new power to detain asylum-seekers indefinitely, and house them in converted shipping containers until their cases are heard. The UN says the measure is illegal. The country’s hardline Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, says it’ll save Europe: — Most of the migrants here are actually trying to pass through, to more prosperous European countries. But to the Hungarian government, it doesn’t matter. And the new law sends a clear message to would-be border-crossers: Don’t try it. — At the height of the refugee crisis in 2015, up to 13,000 people were crossing the border into Hungary everyday. Now, barbed wire fencing, armed patrols, and cameras means very few make it in. — You have police patrolling the border.
And when refugees or migrants try and cross over, you apprehend them. Can you tell me what the process is? — Despite this, two new levels of security will make things even more difficult for migrants. A second barrier is being built by inmates from a local prison at a cost of more than $130-million. And the new law will means that all migrants and refugees, including women and children over 14, will be held in shipping containers like these, instead of camps, indefinitely. There’ll be 324 in total, and people in existing camps may now be moved into them. They won’t be allowed to leave unless their applications are successful. The reality is that most will be rejected, and when that happens, they’ll be sent back across the border.
It’s meant to further deter people like Ashar, one of 8,000 migrants and refugees stuck in Serbian camps waiting to cross. — I came to Serbia because I knew that the process was so easy. — Ashar is 24-years-old, from Iran, and has been stuck in Serbia for seven months. He says his name was taken off the list to enter Hungary because of a clerical error that was never explained to him. The Hungarian government allows no more than 10-a-day to pass legally through to the transit zone. — You could have crossed in 12 to 15 days. — So how does it feel to still be here? — Depressing, stressful, and frustrating. Yeah. It’s difficult to wait here. I took some pictures of this prison and sent it to some of my refugee friends, and they were crying from the inside. They were not able to believe it, but still, they have to.
It is the truth, they’ll keep you in the prison for a long time. — Away from the Serbian border, closed camps like this one are already used to house some single men, who authorities think could be a security risk. They offer a glimpse of what’s in store for migrants who cross in the future. — Two men just came to the window. One of them said that he’s from Libya and he’s been here for three months and the conditions aren’t great. And then, another man came out and he was complaining that they don’t have enough food. — They’re telling us we’re not allowed to speak to the guy there. Security’s here and telling us to stop talking to the people who’re being held in there who are complaining about the conditions. — Human rights groups have sharply criticized the new policy and the conditions here.
The European Union says it’s sending a commissioner to examine whether Hungary is complying with its own rules on the treatment of asylum seekers. — The government insists that the new law is a much-needed deterrent. — In 2015, you accepted 502 asylum seeker applications. Last year, you accepted 425. You capture most people who try to cross over illegally into the country, so why do you think that these extreme measures are needed? — But the reality is that many of them are turning up in Hungary because they’re desperate. And the idea that a 15-year-old child who’s come from Syria will be held in a detention center indefinitely, is it not your responsibility to be doing more about this than just labeling them as a national security threat? — In the Serbian camps, there’s evidence that Hungary’s no-compromise attitude could shift the problems from their borders, but that new policy won’t mark the end of the migrant crisis.
— The new law that Hungary is going to implement, it is going to affect people, I would say, mentally. Because they already have been waiting for so long, and it is frustrating for them. — So what are you hoping for now? — I will try to make a plan and make my way towards Croatia, and try to cross illegally. Yeah.
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