Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Twitter ‘misplaces’ Taliban official in Pakistan

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A senior spokesman for the Taliban has denied that he is in Pakistan, after one of his tweets located him there.

Zabihullah Mujahid appeared to have had his location tagged to his Twitter updates on Friday, labelling him as being in “Sindh, Pakistan”.

He dismissed the location as an “enemy plot”, tweeting that he was definitely in Afghanistan.

Pakistan is often accused of having covert links with the Taliban, an allegation it denies.

After Twitter users noticed the labelling, he tweeted: “My Twitter account has been manipulated – as part of weak efforts of enemy plot, it showed that I am based in Sindh of Pakistan, I call this attempt as fake and shame [sic].”

“Now, the enemy’s fake act has been exposed, and with full confidence, I can say that I am in my own country.”

His exact location is a secret. However, many Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to seek shelter in neighbouring Pakistan.

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Afghanistan’s Opium Industry Now Employs More People Than Its Military

Afghanistan Muddy Boots

Afghanistan’s opium economy provides more employment — “up to 411,000 full-time-equivalent jobs” — than even the country’s armed forces, according to a quarterly report released today by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

The country’s poppy cultivation is at an all-time high, covering more than 200,000 hectares, another SIGAR report found earlier this month.

Opium and its derivatives are the country’s largest export, worth $3 billion in 2013, an increase from $2 billion in the year before.

In fact, Afghanistan’s opium production has been on a constant uptick since 2010, according to a chart included in the SIGAR report:

SIGAR Poppy Cultivation Estimates Graph

“Counternarcotics Appears To Have Fallen Off The Agenda”

Despite the rampant growth of an illicit drug economy that stokes corruption and even finances the Taliban, the concern over opium has diminished. The US and its partners seem to have given up on opium eradication as a goal in the country. As the SIGAR report notes, it isn’t even mentioned in “the declarations and communiqués from the conferences on Afghanistan reconstruction that have become a mainstay of the international effort.”

Opium cultivation is paid only “oblique reference” in the 2012 document laying out the country’s reconstruction. Indeed, nowhere in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework do the words “poppy” or “opium” appear, even as the industry plays an ever-bigger role in the life of Afghans.

Meanwhile, appropriations for the Department of Defense’s Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities Fund (or DOD CN) have plummeted since a steady climb in the aughts and a peak in 2012. Since 2002, the US has spent nearly $7.8 billion trying to tackle Afghanistan’s opium problem.

This chart shows how that effort recieved less and less US budgetary attention, at the same time opium production in the country increased:

Counter Narcotics Funding Afghanistan SIGAR

Read the entire report here.

A photographer has spent 3 years taking pictures of women to see how beauty is defined around the world

In 2013, 30-year-old photographer Mihaela Noroc quit her job in Romania to backpack around the world full time.

Since then, she has visited every continent except for Antarctica and a total of about 50 countries, photographing hundreds of women along the way for her project, dubbed Atlas of Beauty.

And she’s still going.

More than ever, I think our world needs an Atlas of Beauty to show that diversity is something beautiful, not a reason for conflict,” Noroc explains to Tech Insider. “I hope that the portraits from The Atlas of Beauty can challenge many misconceptions that exist around the world.”

Noroc’s proficiency in five languages helps her speak with subjects either on the street or in their homes, but sometimes she relies on translators or body language alone to communicate.

Currently, she’s looking for funding to continue her journey, and hopes by 2017 to have enough images to publish a book.

You can follow Noroc’s trip and view more work on her Facebook, Instagram and Tumblraccounts. Keep scrolling to see more of her amazing images.

This is Mihaela Noroc posing in Bogotá, Colombia. The 30-year-old photographer travels the world taking photographs of women from different cultures.

Noroc has spent three years traveling for her “Atlas of Beauty” series. This woman was photographed on the streets of Moldova.

Noroc has spent three years traveling for her "Atlas of Beauty" series. This woman was photographed on the streets of Moldova.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

“I walk hours every day, in very different environments and I try to find relevant faces and stories for each place,” Noroc tells Tech Insider. This woman was in Peru.

"I walk hours every day, in very different environments and I try to find relevant faces and stories for each place," Noroc tells Tech Insider. This woman was in Peru.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

She also finds subjects online. Sometimes she’s invited back to their homes. Here, an Ecuadorian woman in her living room.

She also finds subjects online. Sometimes she's invited back to their homes. Here, an Ecuadorian woman in her living room.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

This woman is a market seller from Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

This woman is a market seller from Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

Noroc photographed women in the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan. “Although they live in a rough and isolated environment, Wakhi people are amazingly welcoming and friendly,” Noroc says.

Noroc photographed women in the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan. "Although they live in a rough and isolated environment, Wakhi people are amazingly welcoming and friendly," Noroc says.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

So far, Noroc has been to around 50 countries. Here, a woman smiles in Omo Valley, Ethiopia.

So far, Noroc has been to around 50 countries. Here, a woman smiles in Omo Valley, Ethiopia.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

She tries to capture each woman in her surroundings. This woman was snapped in Thorunn, Iceland.

She tries to capture each woman in her surroundings. This woman was snapped in Thorunn, Iceland.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

“I prefer to photograph natural faces, without a lot of make-up,” Noroc says. Here, a woman sits at a tea house in Istanbul, Turkey.

"I prefer to photograph natural faces, without a lot of make-up," Noroc says. Here, a woman sits at a tea house in Istanbul, Turkey.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

Noroc says this Ethiopian woman is a Muslim, but her best friend is Christian. “While traveling in Ethiopia in February, I admired the way Christians and Muslims got along,” she says. “But in the same country, there are dozens of terrible ethnic conflicts.”

Noroc says this Ethiopian woman is a Muslim, but her best friend is Christian. "While traveling in Ethiopia in February, I admired the way Christians and Muslims got along," she says. "But in the same country, there are dozens of terrible ethnic conflicts."

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

Noroc visited Kichwa, Ecuador in the Amazon Rainforest and took pictures of the women there.

Noroc visited Kichwa, Ecuador in the Amazon Rainforest and took pictures of the women there.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

She has been expanding her project to include a wider range and diversity of subjects, both old and young. This picture was taken in Bukhara, Uzbekistan.

She has been expanding her project to include a wider range and diversity of subjects, both old and young. This picture was taken in Bukhara, Uzbekistan.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

“In some countries I approach 10 women and maybe only one accepts,” she says. “In other places, everybody accepts.” This was in Maori, New Zealand.

"In some countries I approach 10 women and maybe only one accepts," she says. "In other places, everybody accepts." This was in Maori, New Zealand.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

“Usually, in Western countries, I’m never refused [when I ask to take a picture],” Noroc says. This woman poses in Harlem, New York.

"Usually, in Western countries, I'm never refused [when I ask to take a picture]," Noroc says. This woman poses in Harlem, New York.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

An Uzbek woman in Kyrgyzstan.

An Uzbek woman in Kyrgyzstan.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

Here, a Buddhist nun poses in Kathmandu, Nepal.

 Here, a Buddhist nun poses in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

Noroc photographed this woman in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Noroc photographed this woman in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

This woman is a computer engineer from Cairo, Egypt.

This woman is a computer engineer from Cairo, Egypt.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

Traveling across the Java Sea in Indonesia.

Traveling across the Java Sea in Indonesia.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

Going to North Korea was like “stepping [onto] a totally different planet, with different rules,” Noroc says. This woman was photographed in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Going to North Korea was like "stepping [onto] a totally different planet, with different rules," Noroc says. This woman was photographed in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

This woman was spotted in Sofia, Bulgaria.

This woman was spotted in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

Noroc says this woman in Guangzhou, China, was on her way to the hospital with her mother and husband to give birth.

Noroc says this woman in Guangzhou, China, was on her way to the hospital with her mother and husband to give birth.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

A woman standing on a pier in the Baltic Sea, Finland.

A woman standing on a pier in the Baltic Sea, Finland.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

A painter, in her studio in Valparaiso, Chile.

A painter, in her studio in Valparaiso, Chile.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

A woman poses on the streets of Havana, Cuba.

A woman poses on the streets of Havana, Cuba.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

A ballerina displays her talent in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

 A ballerina displays her talent in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

“For me, beauty is diversity, [it’s] what makes us unique,” Noroc says. “I also believe that beauty can teach us to be more tolerant.” Below, a woman in the streets of Iran.

"For me, beauty is diversity, [it's] what makes us unique," Noroc says. "I also believe that beauty can teach us to be more tolerant." Below, a woman in the streets of Iran.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

A young woman in Cape Town, South Africa.

A young woman in Cape Town, South Africa.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

A woman in Oxford, UK.

A woman in Oxford, UK.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

Wearing traditional dress in Otavalo, Ecuador.

Wearing traditional dress in Otavalo, Ecuador.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

“[In India] I photographed subjects from very different environments,” Noroc tells Tech Insider. “From poor women living in slums to Sonam Kapoor, one of the most popular Indian actresses.” Here, an Indian woman poses at a train station.

"[In India] I photographed subjects from very different environments," Noroc tells Tech Insider. "From poor women living in slums to Sonam Kapoor, one of the most popular Indian actresses." Here, an Indian woman poses at a train station.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

A young woman in Medellin, Colombia.

A young woman in Medellin, Colombia.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

“Many people tell me how the project changed the way they see beauty and diversity,” Noroc tells Tech Insider. A woman on the streets of Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

"Many people tell me how the project changed the way they see beauty and diversity," Noroc tells Tech Insider. A woman on the streets of Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

But her project has received criticism for showing a narrow a definition of beauty. “There is also negative feedback sometimes, but you have to accept it, even if you find it unfair,” she says. Below, a redheaded woman posing in San Francisco, USA.

But her project has received criticism for showing a narrow a definition of beauty. "There is also negative feedback sometimes, but you have to accept it, even if you find it unfair," she says. Below, a redheaded woman posing in San Francisco, USA.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

“The internet can make you very popular but also very exposed to different opinions,” she says. “Which is not bad, in the end.” A blond woman outside a home in Latvia.

"The internet can make you very popular but also very exposed to different opinions," she says. "Which is not bad, in the end." A blond woman outside a home in Latvia.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

A Tibetan woman in the Sichuan Province, China.

A Tibetan woman in the Sichuan Province, China.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

A mother and her son pose in Australia.

A mother and her son pose in Australia.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

Noroc hopes to publish an Atlas of Beauty book after another year of traveling. This woman was photographed in Rio de Janeiro.

Noroc hopes to publish an Atlas of Beauty book after another year of traveling. This woman was photographed in Rio de Janeiro.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

“There is much more diversity in the world, waiting for me, and I love to discover it. It’s an infinite treasure,” she says. Below, a woman in Myanmar.

"There is much more diversity in the world, waiting for me, and I love to discover it. It's an infinite treasure," she says. Below, a woman in Myanmar.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

Noroc also traveled around her home country of Romania. Here, a ceramic art student in a workshop in Cluj, Romania.

Noroc also traveled around her home country of Romania. Here, a ceramic art student in a workshop in Cluj, Romania.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

Noroc plans to continue to travel the world with just her backpack and camera. Her next stop? Greece.

Noroc plans to continue to travel the world with just her backpack and camera. Her next stop? Greece.

Courtesy of Mihaela Noroc

You can follow her journey and view more of her work on her Facebook page as well as herInstagram and Tumblr accounts.

Archeologists are scrambling to excavate a 2,600 year old city before it becomes a Chinese copper mine

At the end of the year, state-owned Chinese mining company China Metallurgical Group will take control of an ancient Buddhist city in Afghanistan, Mes Aynak.

Southeast of Kabul, the ancient, abandoned city is home to sculptures, art, and jewelry dating back to the time of Alexander the Great—as well as 5.5 million tonnes of copper ore, one of the world’s largest deposits.

Mes Aynak Stupa
An ancient Buddhist stupa uncovered at the Mes Aynak archaeological site. Brent Huffman

Before China Metallurgical turns the site into a copper mine, a team of understaffed and underfunded archaeologists is scrambling to excavate the area, believed to be one of the most important (pdf) stops along the Silk Road and critical for understanding the spread of Buddhism.

It’s unclear exactly what will become of the area, but given that the company plans to build an open copper mine, most of Mes Aynak and the surrounding mountain range will have to be destroyed.

Experts say a full excavation of the 9,800-acre (4.8 million square-foot) archaeological site would take at least 25 years.

Afghan and Chinese officials aren’t likely to wait that long: China Metallurgical has a 30-year deal with the Afghanistan government, which is desperate for revenues.

Mes Aynak Gold Buddha
A gold-plated Buddha head is just one of many artefacts found at the Mes Aynak site, as archaeologists scramble to preserve what they can with limited time and resources. Brent Huffman

“From one side, my people need food. We are poor people. My national budget needs to generate revenue. But on the other side, I have to protect the international heritage,” Nasir Ahmad Durrani, deputy minister of mining told Al Jazeera in June.

A Mining Company, An Ancient City And 5.5 Million Tons Of Copper
A Mining Company, An Ancient City And 5.5 Million Tons Of Copper

Instead, local and international archaeologists have been working on a “rescue excavation” since 2009, hiring locals from nearby Pashtun villages to remove as many valuable artifacts as they can and record on film the existence of structures or items that may not get saved.

Archaeologists are trying to remove stupas, structures, sculptures and painting but say they need specialized equipment and more diggers.

Diggers in 2010.AP Photo/AP Photo/Dusan Vranic

Activists, meanwhile, have been trying to halt the mine, and secure UNESCO protection for the area. Over 50,000 pro-protection signatures were collected and handed to president Hamid Karzai last year, but Afghanistan’s presidential election earlier this year, which has left the country in political paralysis, means there’s no president to lobby now.

Huffman-Abdul Qadeer Temore
Abdul Qadeer Temore, one of the lead Afghan archaeologists on the project, works on one of the standing Buddha statues at Mes Aynak. Brent Huffman

Digging for the copper mine was supposed to begin last year, but has been put on hold as China Metallurgical tries to renegotiate parts of the deal, which includes the company building a power plant, processing facility and railway in addition to the mine.

Mes Aynak Workers
Locals from nearby villages work at the site the site, assisting archaeologists by removing dirt and rocks to expose the artifacts beneath. Brent Huffman

Those negotiations are supposed to resume (paywall) once a new administration is in office, according to the South China Morning Post.

A prolonged audit of the election, and the fact that China Metallurgical has run into problems at home—its deputy chief engineer was dismissed from the communist party in June for “serious disciplinary and legal violations” could buy conservationists a bit more time.

Afghanistan: Still Top Opium Producer, User

According to FP: Afghanistan remains awash in opium, despite $8.2 billion in American taxpayer dollars spent since 2002 to curb its rampant drug production and trade, a U.S. reconstruction watchdog concluded.

FP writes that the country’s own drug use rates remain among the highest in the world, according to a new quarterly report by the congressionally mandated Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, or SIGAR.

A 2014 World Drug Report by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime confirmed Afghanistan again leads the world in opium production and for the third consecutive year saw more land being used for poppy farming — a record 520,000 acres — despite U.S. efforts.

Not only is Afghanistan yet again the world’s largest grower and producer of illegal opium. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime representative Jean-Luc Lemahieu says it also has more than one million drug users.

For most of the last twenty years, Afghanistan has been the world’s largest opium producer; in 2000, the country accounted for roughly 70 percent of the world’s heroin supply.

Then in 2001, the Taliban banned poppy, citing Islamic prohibition against drugs, and wiped out 99 percent of the country’s production of the crop.

The prohibition caused near economic ruin in rural areas. Some farmers tried to replace the poppy with wheat, which requires more water, and in the spring of 2001, many questioned whether the Taliban could enforce the ban for another year.

Afghanistan’s southern provinces, which have been disproportionately affected by the recent surge in violence, continued to drive overall production, with a 27% increase in yields.

Afghan opium continues to flood drug markets, including 90 percent of Canada’s supply and 85 percent of the worldwide market, according to the SIGAR report.

Yet hardly any Afghan heroin makes its way to the United States, despite the growing appetite for the drug. Overall, the U.N. found that Afghan heroin accounted for only 4 percent of drugs sold in the United States.

Syria conflict: US strike ‘kills Khorasan Group leader’

Muhsin al-Fadhli
The US had offered a large reward for information leading to al-Fadhli’s capture or death

The United States says it has killed a senior al-Qaeda militant in an air strike in north-western Syria.

A Pentagon statement said Muhsin al-Fadhli was targeted two weeks ago while travelling in a vehicle near Sarmada.

It described Fadhli as the leader of a network of veteran al-Qaeda operatives, known as the “Khorasan Group“, who were allegedly plotting external attacks against the US and its allies.

The Kuwaiti was also reported to have been killed in a US strike last year.

Fadhli was a confidant of Osama Bin Laden and one of the few al-Qaeda members to receive advanced warning of the 11 September 2001 attacks, according to the US.

Reward

Shortly before the US began air strikes on Islamic State (IS) across Syria in September, cruise missiles struck two areas near the northern city of Aleppo. The targets were not IS positions, but buildings allegedly used by the Khorasan Group.

US officials said the shadowy organisation was made up of about 50 veteran militants from Afghanistan and Pakistan, which jihadists refer to as Khorasan, as well as North Africa and Chechnya.

Map showing territorial control in the Syrian conflict
Map showing territorial control in the Syrian conflict

They had been sent to Syria by al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, not to fight the government of President Bashar al-Assad but to “develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations”, the officials claimed.

Fadhli, their alleged leader, was believed to have arrived in Syria in 2013 but kept a low profile.

In 2005, the US treasury department said Fadhli was based in the Gulf and had been providing support to al-Qaeda militants fighting US-led forces in Iraq under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Seven years later, the state department offered a $7m (£4.5m; €6.4m) reward for information that led to the capture or killing of Fadhli, saying he had become the leader of al-Qaeda’s network in Iran and was responsible for the movement of money and fighters for its operations in the region.

‘Serious’ blow

Reports on social media following September’s missile strikes said Fadhli was among the dozens of militants who were killed, but they were not confirmed by US intelligence agencies.

On Tuesday night, Pentagon spokesman Capt Jeff Davis announced that they were now confident that the 34 year old had been killed “in a kinetic strike” on 8 July near Sarmada, only 7km (4 miles) from Syria’s border with Turkey.

“His death will degrade and disrupt ongoing external operations of al-Qaeda against the United States and its allies and partners,” he added.

Supporters of al-Nusra Front protest against US missile strikes on so-called Khorasan Group militants in Syria (26 September 2014)
Al-Nusra Front and its supporters insist the Khorasan Group does not exist

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst who is now at the Brookings Institution, meanwhile told the AFP news agency that Fadhli’s death was a “serious but not fatal” blow to the jihadist network.

Before September’s missile strikes, US intelligence reports indicated that the Khorasan Group was “in the final stages of plans to execute major attacks”.

Classified US assessments said it was collaborating with bomb makers from the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to test ways to get explosives past airport security.

However, some opponents of the Syrian government expressed doubts about whether the Khorasan Group actually existed, saying the US created it to justify attacks on al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, al-Nusra Front.

In May, al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammed al-Julani said in a TV interview that he had been ordered by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri not to use Syria to launch attacks on the West.

“There is nothing called Khorasan Group. The Americans came up with it to deceive the public,” he insisted.

Hungary erects border fence to plug migrant flow

Hungarian Defence Force prepared to begin border fence construction Photo: Gergely BOTÁR/Prime Minister’s Office

In a dry clearing of woodland in southern Hungary, there is the drone of wood-chippers and rumble of earth movers. Dozens of men are clearing the ground for what Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, believes will be a solution to the country’s worsening migration crisis: a 175km steel and barbed wire fence along its flank with Serbia.

More than 80,000 migrants have crossed this stretch of land into Hungary — and the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone — so far this year, placing the country on the route of a trail that begins as far away as the fields of Kunduz in Afghanistan and the bombed-out streets of Aleppo in Syria.

But Hungary’s Balkan borderlands are now set to become the choke point for what has become Europe’s most heavily travelled migration route. Many expect the €20m fence — which should be finished by November — to trap thousands in neighbouring countries such as Serbia and Macedonia, where migrants say they face police violence and extortion.

The fence has attracted criticism from migrant rights groups, the UN’s refugee agency and the European Commission. Serbia’s government, which was not notified of the plans in advance, reacted with alarm to the decision to seal the border but has pledged to boost border security co-operation.

“I am not sure whether the fence between Serbia and Hungary will help that country protect itself against mass influx of asylum seekers,” said Nebojsa Stefanovic, Serbia’s minister of the interior. “However, we cannot interfere with decisions of neighbouring countries that are within their exclusive competence.”

Mr Orban, who has linked unmanaged immigration to terrorism, insists border security is a national obligation. But since the plan to build the fence was announced, the numbers detected crossing the border have only increased, sometimes reaching more than 1,500 a day.

Even though the vast majority of those have left to try to reach Germany and other more prosperous countries, daily arrivals are straining Hungary.

The surge has become especially noticeable outside train and bus stations in towns such as Szeged in the country’s south, where city authorities have set up a makeshift help centre complete with fresh water taps, stocks of sandwiches and power sockets for migrants to charge their phones.

But not all are so welcoming. Anti-immigrant vigilantes have begun patrols along the border, in search of migrants who have escaped the attention of border police who use heat-seeking cameras, dogs and sometimes helicopters to monitor the area.

Hungary border fence map Migration
Local police say many of the migrants they round up are reported by local residents and farmers.

Just a few kilometres away, on the other side of the planned fence, dozens of Afghan migrants appear at an abandoned brick factory near the town of Subotica to receive food from Pastor Tibor Varga, who runs the Eastern European Mission, a Christian charity.

“I don’t know what will happen with this fence; I don’t think it will help Hungary stop the situation. It may mean more people being trapped here in Serbia and I don’t know how that will end,” says Pastor Varga.

One of the men at the factory, which migrants call “the jungle”, is Muhammed Bilal, a network engineer, who says he left Kunduz in Afghanistan because of violent attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis.

Mr Bilal and his friend Tlha Jan from Jalalabad have travelled for more than a month in the hope of reaching Germany. Mr Jan says Bulgarian police stole his phone and $500 in cash before breaking his ribs and beating his feet with hammers. His toes are black and swollen.

“Now our journey has gotten more dangerous,” says Mr Bilal. “This morning, a person told us the Hungarian government plans to make a fence along the border. But that takes time; we will get across in the next few days.” he adds.

Hungarian ministers say the country has less than 3,000 residential places for asylum seekers, while the number arriving this year alone is more than 20 times that figure.

Very few applications for asylum are completed as most abscond to continue their journey. Lawmakers in Budapest last week approved measures that could see asylum applicants pushed back to neighbouring countries such as Serbia.

But Amnesty International has warned that illegal migrants deported from Hungary face multiple human rights violations in Balkan countries.

Although the new rules and the planned fence have yet to stem the flow of migrants, observers say the government’s rhetoric has hardened the public’s attitude towards migrants.

A recent poll commissioned by conservative magazine Heti Válasz, showed 63 per cent of respondents believe immigration poses a threat to Hungary’s security.

Opinion polls also indicate another trend: since Mr Orban announced the planned border fence, support levels for his governing Fidesz party have risen at the expense of the radical rightwing Jobbik party, ending an eight-month trend of declining approval ratings.

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