The Hungarian government has employed prisoners to build 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 at the beginning of the week in terrain near the southern border city of Morahalom, which is home to some 6,000 people.
Government officials said on Thursday that along with the 900 soldiers who have been sent to build the border fence, the prisoners have also been employed to prepare materials being used in its construction.
Hungarian Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said that, together with the inmates, government officials would also be employed in the construction process if needed.
Hungarian Defense Minister Csaba Hende announced on Thursday that the fence will be four metres high and 175 kilometres long, saying "the Hungarian defence force is ready to complete this task."
Slamming Hungary’s decision to build the fence, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said that "we are absolutely and fiercely against their [Hungary's] decision to build a fence. I thought the Berlin Wall has fallen, but now new walls are being constructed."
The EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos stressed that Hungary’s decision will not solve the migrant crisis, saying "while the EU acknowledges Hungary's right to apply its own border management system, [the fence] will only shift the problem to the next neighboring country, it will not solve it."
Hungary has become a main route for migrants and asylum seekers escaping from wars and poverty who want to enter Austria and Germany.
Since Hungary is an EU member and a Schengen zone country, allowing passport-free travel to other EU countries, migrants want to reach Hungary in order to travel elsewhere easily.
Hungary announced that more than 81,000 migrants have registered and 80,000 of them came from Serbia so far in 2015.
Illegal border crossing to become a criminal offence
According to the Associated Press (AP), the head of Hungary’s prime minister's office Janos Lazar announced on Thursday that the government planned to define illegal border crossings as a crime, not a minor offence.
Lazar said that "this is a clear message to human traffickers. It will be much more difficult, expensive and risky to head toward Hungary."
Refugee shelters to be removed
A spokesman from the Hungarian Interior Ministry told Agence France-Presse on Thursday that the government is preparing to close refugee camps in populated areas, saying "the government's position is clear: the cabinet's aim is to move out the temporary tent camps that are currently in populated areas."
Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief-of-staff Janos Lazar spoke about the importance of the local population’s prosperity and said that “local people would not be disturbed by the masses of refugees."
Mentioning that the deadline for the fence to be constructed is Nov. 30, Lazar said that "if the border is closed, there will be no need for large-capacity refugee camps."
Currently more than 1,500 asylum seekers are located in four overcrowded refugee camps in urban areas in Hungary.