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Hungary Criticized for Border Fence Plan to Stop Refugees



Hungarian officials have announced a plan to build a fence on the border with Serbia to try to stop people from illegally entering the country. Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants have already entered Hungary, most of them from the Middle East and Africa. They traveled through Turkey and the Balkans. Almost 60,000 migrants and refugees have entered Hungary this year.

Hungary’s conservative government says that is enough. It wants to end the flow of people. It says it will build a four-meter-high fence along the 175-kilometer-long border with Serbia.

Zoltan Kovacs is a Hungarian government spokesman.

“These are people arriving from different civilizations trying to enter Europe illegally, causing lots of problems, lots of unsolved issues that has been with Western Europe for the past couple of decades. We definitively would like to avoid this happening in Hungary.”

Hungarians who live in the village of Asotthalom, near the border with Serbia, support the fence-building plan. Local official Zoltan Salinger says people in the village fear the migrants.

He says people are scared to let their children go outside their home alone. He says everyone is afraid of the migrants. But he admits they have not caused any problems.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic reacted angrily to the announcement.

He said, “we will not build walls. I can guarantee that. Serbia will not close itself.”

Both Serbia and Hungary were once controlled by the Soviet Union. So Hungary’s plan to build a fence is difficult for some to accept. Julia Ivan is a lawyer for the non-governmental organization called the Helsinki Committee Hungary. The group campaigns for rights for migrants.

“Twenty six years after the Iron Curtain fell and the Berlin Wall fell, it is very sad to see that in Hungary, a new Iron Curtain, a new barbed wire fence, is being built.”

Anna Shea works at the rights group Amnesty International. She says European countries should support the refugees.

“I would characterize it as countries trying to avoid taking any responsibility. You know, refugees don’t want to be refugees -- they want to stay home. But when they’re in an unbearable situation they will leave, no matter what.”

The debate about migrant rights can be seen on signs on the streets of Hungary. The government’s signs say: “If you come to Hungary, you cannot take away Hungarians’ jobs.”

Some support the message on the signs, but not everyone does.

The United Nations has also created a campaign. It tells about refugees who have become successful, including an Afghan who guides travelers to interesting places and a Bangladeshi who owns a restaurant.

Henry Ridgwell reported on this story from London. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

migrant(s) – n. a person who goes from one place to another especially to find work

civilization – n. a particular well-organized and developed society

Iron Curtain – n. the political and military barrier in the past that separated the communist countries of Europe from the rest of Europe

characterize – v. to describe the character or special qualities of (someone or something)

unbearable – adj. too bad, harsh, or extreme to be accepted or endured; not bearable

time bomb – n. a bomb that is set to explode at a particular moment

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