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BUDAPEST, Hungary – Hungary's plan to close its refugee reception centers will make it much more difficult for people granted asylum to integrate, forcing them to leave the country, the regional head of the U.N.'s refugee agency said Monday.
Montserrat Feixas Vihe, the UNHCR representative in Central Europe, said conditions in the countries refugees are fleeing from have not improved but it is now much harder for them to seek protection in Europe.
"The need for them to flee is just as bad as last year," Feixas Vihe told The Associated Press. "They need to seek protection and they are not able to get it here. That is a major problem."
Feixas Vihe spoke after the opening of a photo exhibit about refugees at Budapest's Keleti railway terminal. Last year, thousands of migrants passed through the terminal each day on their way to Germany and other western destinations. The station was closed for days in September because of the large crowds, so migrants began walking toward Vienna on a major highway, leading the government to supply buses to take them to the Austrian border.
But Hungary has since built razor-wire fences on its borders with Serbia and Croatia that have significantly stemmed the flow of migrants and refugees, from as many as 3,000 a day last year to around 120 a day now.
The closing of the centers is part of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's anti-migrant policies, which also include a government-sponsored referendum planned to be held around October seeking support to oppose plans by the European Union to resettle refugees among the members of the bloc.
Hungary last year closed its largest refugee center, in the eastern city of Debrecen, which had place for 1,200 people and opened during the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia. A center in the town of Bicske, near Budapest, is slated to be shut this year.
"With the closing of the centers, for the refugees it means Hungary will not be a place where they can be," Feixas Vihe said, noting that the centers were essential in helping integrate those granted asylum. "They will be forced to go."