Hungary to finish Serbia border fence by August 31: PM Orban

Hungary finishes building its anti-migrant fence on its southern border with Serbia

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Hungary will finish building its anti-migrant fence on its southern border with Serbia by August 31, ahead of a previous November deadline, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Saturday.

"The fence will be built by August 31, any schedules different from that are invalid," Orban told an audience at a Hungarian-language summer university in Baile Tusnad in Romania, according to Hungarian state news agency MTI.

Work began last week on a short test section of the four-metre-high (12 feet) fence, a bid to stem a surge in 2015 in the number of migrants and asylum-seekers crossing into Hungary from Serbia.

Last week, Hungary's defence and interior ministers said the wire-mesh barrier would be completed along the entire 175-kilometre (110 mile) length of the border by November.

So far this year, Hungary has registered more than 80,000 asylum-seekers, up from 43,000 last year and just over 2,000 asylum applications in 2012.

Most come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and African countries, and hope to cross into Austria and Germany or further west.

Unlike its neighbour to the south, Hungary is an EU member and is also in the bloc's passport-free Schengen zone which means that once migrants are inside the country, they can easily travel elsewhere.

The fence plan, one of a series of hardline anti-migration measures launched by Orban, has caused alarm in Serbia, although Belgrade has conceded that Hungary has the right to protect its own borders as it sees fit.

The Hungarian parliament recently toughened asylum application rules, and allowing for the detention of migrants in temporary camps.

Last week, Hungary also declared Serbia a "safe country" which can allow it to quickly deport asylum-seekers.

Orban said Saturday that illegal immigration is linked to terrorism, and also leads to increases in crime, including rape, and unemployment.

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