Hungary’s parliament yesterday authorised the government to deploy the army to help handle a refugee crisis, granting the military the right to deploy a range of non-lethal force.
It passed a law saying the army could use rubber bullets, pyrotechnical devices, tear gas grenades or net guns, according to the text posted on parliament’s website. Hungary, a landlocked country of 10 million, lies in the path of the largest migration wave Europe has seen since World War Two. It has registered more than 220,000 asylumseekers this year, a wave Budapest has said it would do everything to deflect.
Prime minister Viktor Orban told parliament that police were unable to secure Hungary’s borders with Serbia and Croatia — outer borders of the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone — without help form the army.
“We can defend the Serbian stretch of the border,” he said, adding that fortifications at the 175km Hungary-Serbia border were working better than expected.
Hungary completed that border fence and deployed regular patrols, leading to a drastic drop of migrants crossing that stretch of the border and entering Croatia instead. Unable to cope, Zagreb has waved the refugees on to Hungary again.
Croatia is not a member of Schengen, and the two countries have exchanged bitter words over the handling of the migrant crisis, with Budapest threatening a veto of Croatia’s Schengen accession and beginning work on a border fence there too.
“We can defend the Croatian stretch but to do that we need the army to patrol together with the police,” Orban said.
He said Hungary would act on its own until the EU finds common ground to stem the flow of migrants.
“Europe is rich but weak. That is the most dangerous combination possible. The result ... is catastrophic. Because Europe cannot defend its external borders, internal borders are shut again,” Orban said.
“We need to rethink many European inventions, institutions and treaties. But until we do we cannot sit idle. Until the EU states act as one, member states will be forced to go out of their way to fend off this brutal threat.”
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