Serbia 'Shocked' by Hungary's Plans for 100-Mile Migrant Fence

Hungary Builds Wall to Keep Migrants Out
Migrants from Syria walk in Macedonia near the Greek border June 17, 2015. Hungary announced plans on Wednesday to build a four-metre-high fence along its border with Serbia to stem the flow of illegal migrants. Tens of thousands of migrants enter Europe through the Balkans from the Middle East and Africa. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

Serbia's prime minister has been left "surprised and shocked" by neighbouring Hungary's plans to build a wall that will supposedly prevent immigrants from entering the country.

The wall will run the entire length of the 109-mile border between the two countries, but Aleksandar Vucic, the Serbian prime minister, has said the four-metre (13ft) fence is "not the solution" to migrants entering Hungary from Serbia.

"Building walls is not the solution," Vucic said today. "Serbia can't be responsible for the situation created by the migrants, we are just a transit country. Is Serbia responsible for the crisis in Syria?"

Hungary, a landlocked country in central Europe, is also in the EU's visa-free Schengen zone. It is therefore an attractive destination for migrants entering Europe through the Balkans from the Middle East and Africa, but Hungary has taken an increasingly hard-line approach to the issue of immigration in recent months.

The Hungarian Office of Immigration and Nationality says 57,000 irregular migrants have crossed into the country so far this year, a huge increase from the 43,000 that entered in the whole 2014.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government is under pressure from the far-right Jobbik party, which has been described by its critics as a neo-nazi movement and describes itself as a "principled, conservative and radically patriotic Christian party". The party won its first ever individual constituency seat in parliament earlier this year.

"We should not look at economic immigration as if it had any use, because it only brings trouble and threats to European people," he told state television in January, shortly after the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in Paris. "Therefore, immigration must be stopped. That's the Hungarian stance."

The Hungarian government's anti-immigration poster campaign earlier this month prompted fierce national debate. The posters displayed captions such as: "If you come to Hungary you mustn't take away the work of Hungarians", and were part of a national consultation on "immigration and terrorism" which included a survey sent to eight million Hungarian voters which appeared to link the two and drew widespread condemnation.

Several activists were arrested earlier this month for defacing the billboards, and others have begun a crowdfunding counter-campaign, designing their own posters to make fun of the government's anti-immigration stance.

Earlier this year, there were reports that Bulgaria was building a wall along its Turkish border with the similar aim of keeping migrants out, as fears emerge that Bulgaria, Europe's poorest country, will become the next frontier in Europe's migrant crisis.