Hungary and Bulgaria have turned to Israel for advice on building a fence modeled on the one set up on the southern Israeli border with Egypt to stop the influx of refugees.
As thousands of migrants enter the two states from the Middle East and North Africa, leaders from both countries have contacted Jerusalem for information on constructing a border fence, Reuters and Israel Radio reported.
However, an Israeli official told Reuters that Bulgaria and Hungary would both need EU approval for such a move, which they would be unlikely to receive.
“(European countries) all want solutions and see the relevance of our technologies,” a source told Reuters. “But they also need EU support and this has not been forthcoming.”
Bulgarian and Hungarian officials did not deny the report.
“I presume that such is the case because the cooperation between the (Israeli and Bulgarian) ministries of internal affairs and security is quite intensive,” Bulgaria’s deputy ambassador in Israel Rayko Pepelanov told Reuters.
Israel dramatically upgraded its fencing along 245 miles of the border with Egypt, mainly between 2011 and 2013, to deter a growing flow of illegal migrants from Africa. Illegal migrants were crossing at a rate of several thousand a month, and the new fence reduced that to a trickle.
The fence was also equipped with motion detectors and other equipment designed to thwart security and terror threats. The US, India and other countries have sent delegations to examine the innovations involved in the barrier, whose cost has been estimated at some $400 million.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned Thursday that the wave of mostly Muslim refugees coming to Europe threatens to undermine the continent’s Christian roots — an idea rejected by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“If you’re being overrun, you can’t accept” migrants, Orban wrote in German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, adding that most were Muslims, not Christians and criticizing the EU’s “failed immigration policy”.
“We must not forget that those who are coming in have been brought up under a different religion and represent a profoundly different culture,” wrote the conservative Hungarian leader, who was visiting Brussels Thursday.
“The majority are not Christians but Muslims. That is an important question because Europe and European culture have Christian roots.
“Or is it not already, and in itself, alarming that Europe’s Christian culture is barely able to uphold Europe’s own Christian values?”
Merkel, whose country has taken in the greatest number of migrants, begged to differ, speaking during a visit to Bern, Switzerland.
“To the extent that we have in mind Christian values, then I think it is important that the dignity of every human being … be protected everywhere it is in danger,” she said.
On the asylum issue, Merkel said, “Germany is doing what is morally and legally required, nothing more or less,” adding that the international refugee convention “is not only valid in Germany but in each European (Union) member state”.
Orban had in the newspaper article defended his government’s controversial decision to build a fence along its Serbian border in an effort to stop the influx of people fleeing war and misery.
“The people want us to control the situation and protect our borders,” he wrote.
“Only when we have protected our borders can we ask questions about the numbers of people we can take in, or whether there should be quotas.”
He added that it was “pretty depressing that, aside from Hungary -– or the Spaniards -– no-one wants to protect the borders of Europe.”
Orban also charged that it was “irresponsible” of European politicians “to give migrants hope for a better life and to encourage them to leave everything behind to risk their lives by leaving for Europe”.
“The fence which Hungary is building is important,” he added, according to the German language text. “We’re not doing that for fun, but because it is necessary.”
In Brussels, EU President Donald Tusk also reacted to the article, saying that “for me Christianity in public and social life means a duty to our brothers in need”.
“Referring to Christianity in a public debate on migration must mean the humanity to our brothers … (and) readiness to show solidarity.”