BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary’s defense minister resigned on Monday because the armed forces were being too slow in building a border fence to keep out thousands of refugees and migrants heading into the country.
The resignation came as police used pepper spray on migrants who had broken out of a reception center on Hungary’s southern border, highlighting the difficulty of stemming the tide of refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East.
The armed forces, for which Hende Csaba bore ultimate responsibility as defense minister, were involved in the construction of a fence along Hungary’s border with Serbia designed to prevent migrants entering the country illegally.
A government source said right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a hard-liner on Europe’s immigration crisis, was not satisfied with the speed at which the border protections were being constructed.
“The government’s national security cabinet met on Monday to look at the situation regarding illegal immigration,” the government said in a statement.
“The cabinet heard an account of the state of readiness of the temporary security fence at the border. The minister offered his resignation after the meeting,” the statement ran.
Orban offered the job to Istvan Simicsko, a member of his Fidesz-Christian Democrat party alliance and a former state secretary in the defense ministry.
A group of around 300 migrants broke through a cordon around a reception camp at Roszke, on Hungary’s border with Serbia, and set off down the wrong side of the motorway toward the capital Budapest, Reuters witnesses said.
Police, who had been escorting the migrants to a transit camp for fingerprinting and processing on their entry into the European Union’s passport-free Schengen zone, were unable to prevent their escape despite using pepper spray.
Migrants had scuffled with police, another Reuters witness said.
Reporting By Thomas Escritt and Sandor Peto; Editing by Giles Elgood