Hungarian Border ‘Smart Fence’ Violates Rights, Says NGO


By Maja Zivanovic

After Belgrade newspaper Politika reported on Tuesday that the Hungarian government is testing an electrified ‘smart fence’ on the border with Serbia, the Belgrade Centre for Protection and Help for Asylum-Seekers said the move was a violation of European human-rights agreements.

“Hungarian [border police] are beating migrants, attacking them with dogs, they are even beating children, and according to statements of migrants, they are periodically turning on the electricity in some parts of the [border] fence,” Rados Djurovic from the Centre told BIRN.

According to Politika, Hungarian officials insisted however that the voltage of the electricity is low, at 900 volts, so “it can’t seriously hurt people”.

Its aim is to alert the police every time someone makes contact with the fence and attempts to breach the border, the officials said.

Djurovic argued however that such methods contravene the European Convention on Human Rights, which Hungary has signed.

According to the Hungarian government’s official website, police apprehended 61 illegal border-crossers within the territory of Hungary between Friday and Sunday, while 166 of them were apprehended over the past week and accompanied back to the border by police.

“The border management system is providing a suitable level of security against the reconnaissance methods and latest border-crossing attempts of people-smugglers,” György Bakondi, the chief security advisor to the Hungarian prime minister, told Kossuth Radio on Sunday, the government’s website said.

Bakondi added that the fences that have been erected on Hungary’s border use electronic monitoring equipment, including cameras, thermal imaging devices, and an “intelligent fence alarm system, to immediately sense if the fence is cut and alert border guards, who immediately rush to the scene”.

In a separate development in Serbia, the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians political party called on July 1 for the closing of a centre for migrants in the northern Serbian city of Subotica, near the border with Hungary.

The party also expressed its discontent with announcements that a new centre will be built in Subotica.

It said that migrants “should be transported to other cities”.

According to the Serbian government’s Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, around 6,000 migrants from Asia and Africa are currently accommodated in such centres in the country.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (formerly the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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