Tougher controls expected from Hungary

Unsubstantiated reports on social media suggest that Hungary is about to take a much tougher line on gathering crowds of refugees seeking to cross the border from Serbia as they make their way to Austria and Germany.

Tougher controls expected from Hungary
Young refugees at Vienna's Westbahnhof. Photo: Klaus Schwertner/Caritas

We reproduce the full text of the report below.  These claims have not yet been validated by The Local, but are reported as unsubstantiated.

From Eric Maddox –

ATTENTION: ‪#‎Serbia‬‪#‎Hungary‬ ‪#‎Border‬ crossing & ‪#‎refugees‬

We generally do not post, or approve posts, of news articles. However this article (translated from the Hungarian, below) contains information that may be of vital importance to those in transit and for those working on the ground in Hungary and in Serbia, and for those en route to these countries, especially in the border areas.

To our knowledge this information is not being reported in as much detail in the English-language press. Please take a moment to read this if you are in any way involved in these areas or with these communities, and please share widely.

Thanks so much for translating this from Hungarian, and for making it public, Nora Ganescu:

“As of next Tuesday, the authorities in Hungary will adopt a completely different approach to the refugees.

Those who enter illegally, will be captured, jailed and quickly expelled from the country

Those who submit an application for asylum legally, can not even enter the territory of Hungary and will be returned to Serbia within few hours. The government in the coming weeks is preparing for crowd dispensing scenes, but Orbán said that this is the only way to have relative calm by Christmas.

Viktor Orban and Janos Lazar mentioned several times that from September 15 onwards (i.e. next Tuesday) a new era will begin in the treatment of refugee situation, because this is when the new legislative amendments to the refugee law will enter into force.

These are not simple technical changes

The authorities, the police, the immigration office, the courts get new instruments and obligations, that force them to deal with the refugees crossing the border in a completely different manner.

For example, the outbreaks we saw in Röszke (refugee collection point and camp) on Monday and Tuesday would be met with a completely different response by the police.

Government sources mentioned several tangible, concrete examples, of what will this new “era” entail. Important changes include the creation of so-called transit zone. Imagine the transit zone like an U-shaped area, that is open to the Serbian border but closed to Hungary.

Because of these areas, the border strip will be widened to 60 meters. An important new feature is that this transit area does not qualify as Hungarian (or EU) territory. It will be like the transit zone in the international airport.

The immigrants in the transit zones may submit their applications for asylum, legally the only way to get into the EU.

Péter Szijjártó Foreign Economic Relations and Foreign Minister had earlier said that three of those transit zone will also be constructed on the Serbian border.

By law, the administration of asylum applications will be dealt with within eight days. (According to the European rules in this time a refugee can move freely within the EU).

Here however, the only ones who will be allowed to enter Hungary will be those who receive the refugee status.

This government has a tricky answer

According to a member of the government, the authority will be asked to not delay the answer to the refugee request for several days, but give a decision within 2-3 hours. These decisions almost invariably will be dismissive, as since summer the government declared Serbia a safe country.

This will leave the refugees arriving to the Hungarian border with no choice than returning to Serbia (from the closed transit zone).

Illegal border crossers will be expelled.

Of course one can also try to enter the country illegally as thousands of people are doing now. However, as of September 15, this will not only be an offense, but also – in the amended Criminal Code – a crime. According to our sources, the police will not take the refugees to a registration point (as they are doing now) but take them in custody and send them to court.

Then, they will be either expelled or sent to prison.

This is precisely the reason why Viktor Orban urges the building of the fence, as this is the only way to to ensure that the mass of refugees will go into the transit zone, and do not walk through the green border.

So it won't make a difference if the refugee wants to enter the Hungarian territory legally or illegally, they will almost certainly be deported.

But what if they are trying to break through en masse?

It may well be, of course, the massive rejection of applications will create outrage and groups of refugees will rebel and try to break through the territory of Hungary.

A member of the Government said that the government expects and is prepared to break such attempts.

They have therefore ensured that the army is deployed at the border. (The parliament will vote for the required change in the law on the 21 September – it will take two thirds of the parliament to vote for that).

The protection of the border will still be made by the police, but beyond every policemen there should be 2-3 soldiers.

The soldiers and police officers will not have fire command, the police will use already existing instruments to disperse the crowds: water cannons, tear gas, batons.

A government source said they expect more such “dispersing scenes” in the coming weeks.

Where does this strict action lead?

The government estimates that the crackdown will have two consequences:

1. The people smugglers and refugees realize that the can't get to the EU through Hungary: they need to find another way.

2. Serbia will also change its attitude, and not facilitate the smooth transit of the people through it's territory. After all, tens of thousands jammed the Hungarian border with Serbia can cause serious problems.

According to the Hungarian government plans the great influx of refugees to the Serbian-Hungarian border will come to an end by Christmas.

However it is naive to think that the refugees and people smugglers will not look for other avenues. The government thinks one possible scenario is towards Croatia (Romania also possible, but less likely, as it represents a huge detour to Germany).

According to the government's calculation the rivers in the Croatian-Hungarian border, Drava and Mura will deter refugees and people smugglers to take the direction towards Hungary, leaving the way through Slovenia, which is no longer the concern of the Hungarian government. If they refugees wanted to come en masse from Romania or Croatia, the government did not rule out building there a fence, too. (no decision yet about this).

According to a government member we should prepare for “disturbing pictures” as of next Tuesday on the Serbian border.”


MAP: Who are the foreigners in Austria?

Austria's recent Migration & Integration report paints a detailed picture of who are the immigrants in the country, where they come from, the languages they speak at home and more.

MAP: Who are the foreigners in Austria?

More than a quarter of Austria’s population has a “migration background”, which, according to the statistics institute Statistik Austria, means that they have parents who both were born abroad, regardless of their own nationality or place of birth.

Though migration is a controversial topic for some, Statistik Austria made it clear that if not for it, the country would simply stop growing.

“Austria’s population is growing solely due to immigration. Without it, according to the population forecast, the number of inhabitants would fall back to the level of the 1950s in the long term”, says Statistik Austria’s director general Tobias Thomas.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Who are the foreigners in Austria?

Not every person with a migration background is considered a foreigner, though. Many of them have parents who were born abroad but naturalised Austrians before having children, or they themselves became Austrian citizens later on.

This is why despite 25.4 percent of the population having a “migration background”, the number of people with foreign nationalities is slightly lower at 17.7 percent.

So, who are these people? 

German is still the most common nationality among foreigners in Austria (218,347 people). But much had changed since 2015 (when there were 170,475 Germans).

The number of Romanians has almost doubled (from 73,374 to 140,454), bringing them to the second-largest foreigner community in Austria, behind German citizens.

In 2015, Turkish was the second-largest foreign nationality in Austria (there were 115,433), but they are now the fourth (with 117,944 people), behind German, Romanian, and Serbians (121,643).

They are helping Austria get younger

In Austria, most people without a migration background (36.2 percent) are between 40 to 64 years old. The share is also quite large among those with 65 or more years, reaching 21.8 percent.

When it comes to people with a migration background, most are between 40 to 64 years old (34.4 percent), followed closely by the 20 to 39-year-olds (33.5 percent), and then the children and adolescents until 19 years of age (22 percent). Only 10.2 percent of the people with a migration background are older than 65.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How does the Austrian pension system work?

Regarding nationalities, Austrians have an average age of 44.8, followed by Germans, who average 41.1. The youngest populations are the Afghani living in Austria (24.9 years old on average) and the Syrians (26.3).

Immigration helps keep the Austrian population younger. (Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash)

Language and education

People with a migration background living in Austria have a different educational profile than the population without a migration background, according to the Statistik Austria data.

They are more often represented in the lowest and highest educational segments and less often in the middle-skilled segment than the population without a migration background.

However, the educational level of immigrants is improving over time, on the one hand, due to increasing internal migration, also of higher educated people within the EU. On the other hand, as a result of the selective immigration policy toward third-country nationals by the Red-White-Red Card, the institution said.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

In 2021, 19.4 percent of the Austrian population had higher education, such as a university degree, and 10.9 percent had only mandatory primary schooling. Regarding foreigners, 29 percent had university-level education and 25.1 percent had completed only their primary school years.

When it comes to children and the language they speak, German was the first language of about 72 percent of the four and 5-year-old children in elementary educational institutions in Austria.

READ ALSO: Austria ranked world’s ‘second least friendly country’

With just under six percent each, Turkish and Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (BKS) were the most common non-German first languages. Around two percent each spoke Romanian, Arabic or Albanian, followed by Hungarian (one percent).

Less than one percent each for Persian, Polish, Slovakian, English, Russian and Kurdish, respectively, as the first languages. Languages other than those mentioned were spoken by slightly more than five percent.

And who is naturalising Austrian?

Not all foreigners become Austrian, even if they have been in the country for decades. One of the reasons is that the process is expensive, but also because it requires applicants to give up their previous citizenship – something many are unwilling to do.

READ ALSO: Could Austria change the rules around citizenship?

According to the report, in 2021, most foreign citizens who naturalised Austrian were from Turkey originally (1,100), followed by Bosnia (921), Serbia (782), Afghanistan (545), and Syria (543).

More than one-third of the people naturalising Austrian last year were already born in Austria, and most of the naturalisations were of young people between 20 and 40 years old.