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Hungary rushes to finish migrant-stopping fence

By Agencies in Roszke, Hungary and Munich, Germany (China Daily) Updated: 2015-09-14 07:59

Hungary is rushing to erect a fence along its southern border to block migrants - several thousand every night - from entering the country and from there the European Union.

"This needs to be finished today," an exhausted police officer said as rain lashed down, pointing to a 400-meter-long stretch of the fence.

"Starting September 15, every person who crosses the fence will be imprisoned," he said, his face hollowed with fatigue in the fog and cold of the early morning.

With 175,000 people having crossed this year, the fence, 4 meters tall, is one of a raft of measures - both praised and criticized - announced by Hungary's right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban in an effort to stem the human tide.

But the fence is behind schedule. On Monday, Orban's dissatisfaction with the slow pace prompted the defense minister to resign. His successor has pledged to speed things up.

Last month, Hungary completed the first stage of the barrier, coils of razor wire along the length of the frontier that have done little to halt the influx.

The main section has yet to be finished.

Almost 4,000 soldiers have been drafted to get the barrier ready. Prisoners have also been brought from a nearby jail to help roll out barbed wire. They were dressed in neon vests as they trudged through the mud.

"Everybody must be prepared to work hard in the coming weeks," Orban said recently.

Together with Greece and Italy, ex-communist Hungary has become a front-line state in Europe's refugee crisis, with people crossing from Greece into Macedonia then passing through Serbia before reaching the Hungarian border.

Embracing its role as a defender of those in need, Germany welcomed at least 10,000 more asylum seekers into the country on Saturday. As officials worked to give all a firm roof over their weary heads, people in a packed stadium cheered some of the littlest newcomers, who walked in hand-in-hand with top soccer players.

Germany over the past week has taken in more than 40,000 people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. A poll has suggested there is broad support for the government's course.

AFP - AP

(China Daily 09/14/2015 page12)

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