Around a thousand people demonstrated in downtown Budapest on Tuesday against the Hungarian government for erecting a four metre-high fence to prevent the flow of migrants into the country from neighbouring Serbia.
Hungary started the construction of the fence along the Serbian border on Monday in terrain near the southern border city of Morahalom, which is home to some 6,000 people.
Protests began after the Hungarian government’s decision to build the 175 kilometre-long fence to stem the flow of illegal migrants from the Serbian border in mid-June.
According to authorities, the building of the fence, which extends 150 metres long at "most exposed to the pressures of migrants" ten places in borders, is “experimental.”
The demonstration march started from Saint Stephen's Basilica, which is the biggest church in Budapest, to the neo-gothic Parliament building. Protesters were seen holding placards saying "Jesus was a migrant, too" and "My best friend is a migrant."
Activist Amy Rodgers, a member of the Migration Solidarity Group of Hungary (Migszol) - an informal independent group of Hungarians, immigrants and refugees who advocate the realisation of political and social rights of refugees and asylum seekers in Hungary - criticised the government’s anti-immigrant campaign of billboard slogans such as "If you come to Hungary, you cannot take Hungarians' jobs."
"In the middle of the biggest refugee crisis in recorded history, this government has somehow managed to make it sound like they are the ones with the problem," Rodgers was reported saying by Associated Press.
Rodgers also stressed Hungarian volunteers were helping migrants, saying "In order for this continent to start looking a bit more humane we need many, many things. The one thing we definitely don't need is a fence."
Agnes Hars, another activist, added "The money should be spent on aid," Reuters reported.
Johann Mahr, a student from Germany, said all European nations had a responsibility to stop the suffering, "especially if it is caused by our foreign policy in the Middle East," adding “These people are not economic migrants as the government says ... most of them are literally fleeing from situations that are absolutely horrible."
Meanwhile, Zoltan, 24, a local border official from Morahalom said that the authorities are catching 500 illegal migrants every day.
"They have been coming early in the morning every day for months. People from [nearby] Assathalom are very upset because of this situation. They want to live peacefully," he said according to Balkan Insight.
Assathalom's assistant mayor Veronika Dobo also said"I don’t know whether it is going to have any effect. A 100-metre fence will not help us, as the illegal migrants will just cross the border at different points that are not fenced off.”
Hungarian and Austrian police forces have been training mobile patrols along the border between Serbia and Macedonia since mid-June.
Karoly Papp, the director of the Hungarian police force, stressed that Serbian police were already yielding significant results in preventing illegal border crossings.
“We are ready to provide all necessary assistance to the Serbian police and it is very important that the two police cooperate well,” Papp said.
The estimated cost of the border fence is said to bet about 20 million euros.
Around 80,000 migrants and refugees have reached Hungary so far this year.