BUDAPEST — Hungary said on Wednesday it was building a four-metre high fence on its border with Serbia to keep out migrants, as the EU struggles to deal with a massive influx of people trying to reach Europe.
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said he was "surprised and shocked" by the plan. "We will discuss this decision with our Hungarian colleagues," he added.
"Building walls is not the solution. Serbia can't be responsible for the situation created by the migrants, we are just a transit country. Is Serbia responsible for the crisis in Syria?" Vucic said on state television.
Hungary's announcement came as Pope Francis hit out at nations that "close the door" to those seeking a safe haven from war, poverty and persecution.
In Budapest, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said his government had ordered work to start on the barrier along the length of its 175-kilometre border with Serbia.
"Preparation work for the fence should be completed by next Wednesday," he said.
"This decision does not break any international treaty, other countries have opted for the same solution," he added, citing similar barriers on the Greek-Turkish and Bulgarian-Turkish frontiers and around Spanish exclaves in Morocco.
Last year, Hungary received more refugees per capita than any other EU country apart from Sweden, recording 43,000 arrivals in total.
So far this year some 54,000 refugees have entered Hungary, according to government figures, a sharp rise from the 2,000 who arrived in the central European state in 2012.
As a European Union member Hungary is in the passport-free Schengen zone.
Once inside Hungary, migrants can therefore travel easily elsewhere in the 26-nation zone.
Hungary says around 95 per cent of the migrants to have entered the country so far this year came through Serbia, which is not yet a member of the EU. — AFP