Budapest police steps up protection of US and other embassies
More security personnel, more intensive information gathering, new protocols – a slew of measures Hungarian police and private contractors guarding embassies in Hungary are taking in order to protect diplomatic objects in Budapest.
Budapest Business Journal May 12, 2011
All is quiet around the UK Embassy on the corner of Budapest’s Erzsébet tér. Harmincad utca, the street on which the embassy’s entrance is, has been closed off from car traffic and pedestrian traffic usually treads on the other side of the street, as well. It is very similar to what you would have seen before Osama bin Laden’s death. But in fact, it is invisibly different. Osama has died and the world is expecting retribution, at least a symbolic one. And due to the UK’s past role in combating terrorists, the British Embassy in Budapest could, according to Hungarian officials, be one of the embassies under threat.
It is not the only one where security has been tightened. According to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, the US and “its closest allies and partners in past military operations” are the most likely to be threatened in any terrorist retribution following the killing of the most wanted terrorist since September 11, 2001. This means that Israel’s, Germany’s and France’s embassies are now also under more intensive police protection in Budapest, as well as the US’s, of course.
“We are constantly reviewing the situation and we are doing everything to enable us to react well. Some things we are doing can be seen, but securing these premises also includes steps that are hid from the eyes of the public,” says Eszter Pataki, head of the ministry’s press department. “If we deem it necessary, we detail more personnel to protect the embassies,” she added.
In practice, a stronger threat level has brought little change to the life of the embassies. “We are monitoring the situation and whenever we become aware of a threat, we have a responsibility to issue a warning,” Bradley A. Hurst press attaché of the United States Embassy to Hungary told the Budapest Business Journal. The US has issued a warning to its citizens, especially those residing in countries featured on the Department of State’s travel warning list, to exercise additional caution and if possible, stay at home for a while. The administration also ordered strengthening the protection of diplomatic assets abroad.
In many cases, more threat makes more work for the private contractors in charge of protecting diplomatic institutions. The protection of diplomatic institutions is overseen by the law enforcement of the host nation, as regulated by the Vienna Convention of 1961 on a basis of mutuality, but the diplomacies can and often do hire companies like In-Kal Security to provide additional protection.
As Dr István Bökönyi, strategic director at In-Kal told the BBJ, the company is one of the biggest in its field in Hungary and is currently in charge of protecting four different diplomatic assets belonging to nations that are high on the terror-threat list. In-Kal currently has tens of security professionals on such assignments, Bökönyi said without revealing the actual number. Some of the assignments involve armed service performed by specially trained professionals.
Contractors overseeing security assignments are regularly keeping track of global events and are ready to respond, Bökönyi, a retired three-star general with a career in law enforcement and counter-terrorism said. “When there is a threat, our guards on duty are fully briefed of the situation and know what to do,” he added
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