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Hungary Dismisses French Criticism Of Migrants' Handling

A Hungarian policeman walks past burning clothes belonging to Syrian migrants on a border fence between Serbia and Hungary near the village of Horgos on August 28.
A Hungarian policeman walks past burning clothes belonging to Syrian migrants on a border fence between Serbia and Hungary near the village of Horgos on August 28.
By RFE/RL

Hungary has dismissed criticism by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius over Budapest's handling of the thousands of migrants transiting it for Germany and other EU countries.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in a statement on August 30 that instead of "shocking and groundless judgments, one should instead concentrate on finding common solutions for Europe."

His comments came after Fabius said Hungary's recently completed razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia does not "respect Europe's common values."

Hungary has come under fire for its attempts to stop thousands of migrants and refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and North Africa from coming into Hungary from Serbia by building a 175-kilometer barrier out of razor wire that will soon be reinforced with a four-meter high concrete wall.

Criticism has also come for Hungary's strict polices of putting the migrants in camps and of recently not allowing them to board trains for Austria and Germany, where many of the refugees want to go.

The row between France and Hungary comes as German, French, and British officials urged the European Union to take "concrete steps" to tackle an escalating migration crisis.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, and British Home Secretary Theresa May issued a joint statement on August 30 calling for better processing of refugees arriving in southern Europe.

The statement stressed the need to set up "hot spots" in Greece and Italy by the end of the year to ensure that migrants are fingerprinted and registered, in order to allow authorities to quickly identify those in need of protection.

The officials called for a special meeting of EU interior and justice ministers within the next two weeks to discuss the crisis. 

Meanwhile, Hungarian police said August 30 that they had arrested a fifth suspect, a Bulgarian man, over the deaths of 71 migrants found in an abandoned truck in Austria last week.

The incident has sparked international indignation. 

WATCH: Migrants make a dramatic break for freedom on August 29, from a camp near Roszke, Hungary, scaling a fence and running away. The breakout came three days after police at the camp used tear gas on migrants protesting against having their fingerprints taken. 

Migrants Escape From Hungarian Campi
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August 30, 2015
Migrants made a dramatic break for freedom from a camp near Roszke, Hungary, scaling a fence and running away. The breakout came three days after police at the camp used tear gas on migrants protesting against having their fingerprints taken. (Reporter Ray Furlong, cameraman Roman Kupka)

Pope Francis on August 30 decried the deaths, calling for effective cooperation to avoid such "crimes that are an offense to the whole of humanity."

The five suspects, four Bulgarians and an Afghan, have been remanded in custody for one month.

They were arrested shortly after the refrigerated truck was found with the bodies inside while parked along an Austrian highway on August 27. 

They are suspected to be low-ranking members of one of the human trafficking gangs that are seeking to profit from the wave of refugees from conflict-hit countries in the Middle East and Africa.

Police said the victims, believed to be mainly refugees fleeing the war in Syria, had been dead for up to two days when they were found.

They are thought to have suffocated.

Austrian officials are conducting autopsies to determine the cause of death and when they died -- whether in Hungary or Austria -- to clarify which country has jurisdiction over the case.

The UN says some 300,000 people have fled war and economic hardship in the Middle East and Africa for Europe so far in 2015.

An estimated 2,500 have died in the attempt to make the dangerous trip cross the Mediterranean Sea to Greece and Italy.

An estimated 140,000 refugees and migrants have entered Hungary this year, though the overwhelming majority have transited the country for wealthier nations like Germany.

Hungarian Fence Criticized

The razor-wire fence, however, has drawn condemnation in Western Europe.

"Hungary is part of Europe, which has values and we do not respect those values by putting up fences," Fabius said on August 30.

WATCH:Hungarian Army Hard At Work On Border Fence

Hungarian Army Hard At Work On Border Fencei
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August 30, 2015
Hungarian troops were busily continuing with construction of a fence along the country’s 175-kilometer border with Serbia, aimed at keeping out migrants from strife-torn countries seeking to enter the European Union. It was announced on August 29 that a line of barbed wire along the border was now complete, but an official said it would take a number of weeks before the fence was ready. (RFE/RL)

Fabius accused other eastern European states of enforcing what he called an "extremely harsh" policy towards refugees.

Fabius also condemned "some countries that are situated in the east of Europe" for opposing an EU quota system for refugees. "I find this scandalous," he said.

Meanwhile Germany, which expects the number of asylum seekers it receives to quadruple to about 800,000 this year, is asking for help in dealing with the tide of migrants. 

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert called on August 30 for "more solidarity" and "a fairer distribution of refugees" in Europe. 

Germany and a handful of other countries, he said, are "those that receive the most refugees."

"With 28 European member states, that cannot remain the case on a continuing basis," he said. 

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

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