We are witnessing the sickening spectacle of a wall being erected in Hungary to stop refugees who are fleeing persecution from entering the country.
On Monday the Hungarian army – supported by the police – began work on the wall, which is 13 feet high and 110 miles long and runs along Hungary’s border with Serbia. It will cost around $35m.
Its purpose is to keep out some of the most desperate people fleeing war and persecution – wars for which the leaders of Europe and the US are responsible.
An estimated 80,000 refugees and migrants have reached Hungary this year — up from 43,000 in 2014. The vast majority are arriving via Serbia from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Most will request asylum in Hungary then move onto other EU countries. The number of people arrested at the Serbian-Hungarian border has gone up more than 2500 percent since 2010.
The nationalist far-right Fidesz party government is responsible for the building of the wall. Fidesz is broadly similar to UKIP in Britain. Its government is encouraging racism towards migrants and has just announced a national consultation exercise on the twin themes of migration and terrorism.
Earlier this month Fidesz, along with the fascist Jobbik party, rammed new laws through the Hungarian parliament that will allow the creation of internment camps for migrants, accelerate asylum processing and place limits on judicial reviews of asylum decisions. A senior government source told the BBC:
A mere several dozen, or at most a few hundred migrants will be accepted in future.
This is also a government that allows the persecution of the Roma to go on unabated. Roma communities are being surrounded by walls and literally placed into ghettoes and many Roma children are taught in segregated schools.
Fidesz leader Viktor Orban has made a number of speeches claiming that “Hungary is being drowned by migration”. He even went as far as to state:
If we allow it, a modern mass migration will take place, millions, even tens of millions and even hundreds of millions will come to Hungary.
This is a lie. The fact is that emigration from Hungary is outstripping immigration. Current figures suggest that there are 350,000 Hungarians working abroad. Hungarian Central Statistics Office figures state that 31,500 left the country in 2014 – an increase of 46 percent since 2013.
According to a report by Amnesty International, many migrants travelling through the Balkans experience abuse and violence by government officials and unscrupulous smugglers.
Refugees fleeing war and persecution make this journey across the Balkans in the hope of finding safety in Europe, only to find themselves victims of abuse and exploitation and at the mercy of failing asylum systems.
Hungary is not alone: last year Bulgaria completed a 18-mile wall at its border with Turkey and it has announced plans to extend this along its border with Greece. Ironically the construction of the high metal fence – which has razor wire facing the Turkish side in a bid to keep migrants out – comes two decades after the fall of the Iron Curtain, which was designed to keep people in.
Fortress Europe is no longer an allegory – it’s become a reality.
Not a single word of condemnation has been uttered by the British government over the building of the Hungarian wall. We all know why. David Cameron’s Tory government is building its own fence at the French port of Calais to stop refugees coming to Britain for sanctuary.
We are witnessing the largest refugee crisis Europe has seen since the Second World War. And our rulers are responsible for it. They have no right to wash their hands of the problem.
Draconian immigration laws and the building of walls and detention centres will only force desperate people to make even more desperate attempts to find safety for themselves and their families.
Safety and security are a human right. “They are welcome here,” must always be our by-word.