Orban aims to meet Ban before mooted border closure

Viktor-OrbanHungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban aims to meet UN chief Ban Ki-moon in New York this week ahead of a possible closure to thousands of migrants of the EU country’s border with Croatia.

The hardline Orban said last week that Hungary aimed to seal the frontier — crossed currently by more than 5,000 migrants daily — but that he wanted to talk to Ban and others before doing so.

Orban’s office said Tuesday that the 52-year-old was currently in the United States and would attend the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday. It was unclear when he might meet Ban.

Hungary has seen almost 300,000 migrants enter the country this year, travelling up from Greece through the western Balkans and hoping to make it to northern Europe, particularly Germany.

On September 15 Hungary effectively sealed its border with Serbia — previously the main crossing point — with razor wire, diverting the flow of people into Croatia.

But Croatia, overwhelmed by the new arrivals, has been transferring them to its border with Hungary further west, which then transports them to the Austrian frontier.

Hungary’s use of fences and its treatment of migrants — there were serious clashes on September 16 between police and migrants — has been sharply criticised, including by Ban.

Reacting to those disturbances, Ban said he was “shocked to see how these refugees and migrants were treated”. Hungary’s foreign minister rejected the criticism of Ban and others as “shocking”.

Hungary has also made it a crime punishable by up to five years in prison to cross the border illegally, while giving the army the right to patrol the border and use rubber bullets.

Hungary is also building a barrier along its border with Romania, and last week briefly put in place barbed wire along its frontier with Slovenia, the first such measure inside the passport-free Schengen Zone.

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