Hungary Moves to Close Refugee Camps

Hungary is considering shutting its permanent refugee camps, officials said Friday, in yet another sign of the government's anti-migrant stance as the European Union tries to seal a deal with Turkey to stem the influx.

"The government has authorized Interior Minister Sandor Pinter to close the reception centers in Hungary, and it is now his duty to consider whether there is a need for them in the future," the office of Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a statement.

There are currently six camps in the country hosting an estimated 1,600 migrants, according to refugee rights group Hungarian Helsinki Committee.

They could potentially be replaced by two temporary "guarded" centers close to the Austrian border, the government said.

Around 400,000 migrants and refugees passed through Hungary last year, before Orban's right-wing government sealed off the southern borders with razor wire and fences last autumn.

Authorities also brought in tough new laws punishing illegal entry and vandalism of the fences.

Some 2,200 people have been charged with crimes under the new legislation, the vast majority served with expulsion orders.

Hungary is one of several bloc members fervently opposed to an EU plan to distribute asylum-seekers among member states via quotas.

The proposal is part of a controversial agreement that EU leaders hoped to finalize with Turkey at a summit in Brussels on Friday, in a bid to tackle the continent's worst migration crisis since World War II.

Last month, Orban called a referendum on the mandatory migrant quota, saying Brussels has no right to "redraw Europe's cultural and religious identity".

The ballot, likely to take place between September and November, follows a legal challenge to the quota filed by Hungary with the European Court of Justice late last year.

Source: Agence France Presse

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