Responses to Europe’s increasingly acute refugee crisis triggered by near daily escalations in Syria’s four-year old, bloody civil war have varied by country.
Germany has said it’s willing to take at least 500,000 asylum seekers per year. In France, public opinion has now swung in favor of accepting more migrants from the war-torn Middle East, while the EU more generally has announced plans to impose a quota system aimed at settling 160,000 refugees. Czech police meanwhile, have taken to hauling German-bound refugees off trains and writing serial numbers on their arms with magic marker, while Finland is looking at increasing capital gains taxes to offset “higher immigration costs.”
But amid the myriad ad hoc attempts to cope with the overwhelming people flows, one country’s response Trumps them all (so to speak). Hungary - where a news camerawoman was caught on tape this week kicking and tripping fleeing migrants and where more than 3,000 asylum seekers crossed the border on Wednesday evening alone - is now constructing a razor wire, anti-migrant fence along its border with Serbia. Here’s Reuters:
Hungary said on Thursday it expected to finish building a fence along its border with Serbia by early October, and indicated it would call a "state of crisis" next week as the right-wing government readies a clampdown on migrants and refugees streaming through the Balkans.
With 3,321 registered entering from Serbia on Wednesday, the highest daily total yet, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff said Hungary planned to introduce "different rules of the game" from next week, with penalties for illegal entry, accelerated asylum procedures and possible expulsion back over the border.
He said the fence, in part being built by prisoners along the 175-km (109-mile) border, would be completed sooner than planned, by the beginning rather than the end of October.
"This 3.5-4-metre tall fence can be adequate to protect the country, especially if policemen are patrolling on the other side," Lazar told a weekly news conference.
Asked whether building a barrier that conjures images of Cold War-era razor wire and watchtowers was really the best idea Hungary could come up with, Prime Minister Viktor Orbansaid simply said that the flows must stop if Europe wants to preserve its "Christian identity."
Here's a bit more from The New York Times on the Hungarian response which will increasingly involve the military:
The Hungarian Army was conducting exercises near the border with Serbia on Thursday, a possible prelude to a more active role as thousands of migrants continued to pour into the country overnight.
The involvement of the army in policing the border, where a 110-mile fence with razor wire is being constructed to keep migrants out, is subject to the approval of a bill in Parliament this month.
The number of migrants in the area has shown no sign of abating, and Hungarian military officials have said the army would help secure the country’s borders.
Ultimately, it's not clear whether 12 feet of razor wire will be enough to dissuade those who are fleeing from bullets, tanks, barrel bombs, and sword-weilding jihadists, meaning the question really isn't how to keep migrants out, but rather how to handle the situation once migrants get in and that, indeed, is quickly becoming the most important and divisive political issue both in the US and in Europe.
We can only hope, as mentioned earlier, that a massive wave of scapegoating xenophobia isn't in the cards on either side of the Atlantic.