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Facing record migrant flows, Hungary tightens asylum system

July 6, 2015

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s parliament on Monday approved amendments tightening the country’s asylum system, a response to the record number of migrants and refugees reaching the country over the past year.

The plan, sharply criticized by the U.N.’s refugee agency, was approved by lawmakers from the governing Fidesz party, its Christian Democrat allies and the far-right Jobbik party.

The new rules, for example, will allow authorities to cancel asylum requests if the petitioners leave their designated residence for more than 48 hours without authorization and prolong the detention of asylum seekers.

The UNHCR said the amendments “would make it impossible for people fleeing persecution to access international protection in Hungary.”

Lawmakers also approved a proposal facilitating the government’s plan of building a 4-meter (13-foot) -high fence on the border with Serbia to stem the flow of migrants and refugees.

The government said last week that construction of the temporary fence, initially to be built in around 10 locations where officials said human traffickers were the most active, would start within weeks and be completed in a few months.

“Economic migrants should be stopped at the borders of Hungary and, therefore, Europe,” Fidesz faction leader Antal Rogan said ahead of the parliamentary vote. “There is no good solution to this issue other than setting up the security border seal,” which is what the government officially calls the fence.

Nearly 72,000 migrants have reached Hungary so far this year, nearly all entering through the border with Serbia. Last year, just under 43,000 people filed for asylum in Hungary, though most quickly leave for Germany and other destinations further west in the European Union before their petitions are resolved.

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