Hungary’s police say their “border-hunters” squad is overrun with unsavory applicants

On the hunt.
On the hunt.
Image: Reuters/Laszlo Balogh
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Hungary has fallen out of favor with human rights groups for responding to the refugee crisis with a razor-wire fence on its border with Serbia and later with Croatia to keep migrants out. But for all its efforts at enforcing draconian policies on asylum seekers, it’s struggling to find suitable candidates to patrol its border fence.

The government announced plans to hire police units of “border hunters” (paywall) in August 2015, setting a target of 3,000 last year. These border guards would patrol the border alongside 10,000 police and soldiers. The new recruits will carry pistols, pepper spray, batons, and handcuffs. Despite a massive recruitment drive, Hungarian police told BBC News that ”the name is part of the problem, as it attracts the wrong kind of applicant.” This isn’t due to a lack of interest, but because many of the applicants are unable to pass tests put in to weed out unsavory characters.

In a country where xenophobia is running high under a conservative government, the police have, for instance, disabled comments on YouTube recruitment videos.

Police officers told the BBC that only 1,000 of the 2,700 people who applied from August 2016 to January this year were accepted. Nearly 400 applicants failed the psychology test, which is meant to assess their fitness. The police will leave recruitment open until they find enough candidates.

The low acceptance rate is particularly damning of applicants amid accusations of human rights abuses by Hungarian police throughout the refugee crisis. The police shocked UN officials after they fired tear gas and water cannons against migrants on Hungarian borders. And in one case, a migrant told Human Rights Watch that police officers set dogs on him and kicked him while he was down. Journalists have also complained of police brutality directed at them at the Hungarian border.

Hungary announced plans this month to ratchet up its already controversial policy on asylum seekers. The government plans to detain asylum seekers in government camps while their asylum application is being processed, which could take months. In response, Amnesty Internal accused Hungary of “stooping to a new low.”