Hungary has spent almost HUF 650 billion (EUR 1.5 billion) on the protection of its southern border since 2015, only two percent of which was provided by the European Union, the Parliamentary Secretary of State of the Ministry of Interior told the Parliament’s Committee on Defense and Law Enforcement in Budapest on Wednesday.
Bence Rétvári was questioned on the personnel and organizational issues of the border guard units and on issues related to the protection of the southern border. The politician said that the necessary technical equipment and operation were provided for building the fence, adding that Hungary “credited” the EU with a large part of the money.
The secretary of state also said that 894 candidates had been contracted to become border guards and 636 had already passed the exam. He added that the number of border guard regiments was expected to reach 1,000 by winter.
According to the politician,
234,000 people had tried to enter the country by November 1 this year, compared with 122,000 last year, and 6,000 before that. This year, 1,624 human smugglers have been caught, compared with 1,277 last year and 455 the year before.
Rétvári stressed that the setting up of the border fighter regiment has been successful. He added that the news of the reinforcement of the southern border fence and the deployment of the border guard regiment had also reached the countries of origin, which is why as many people as possible are trying to cross as soon as possible, “in a panic of closing the gates.”
The secretary of state said that illegal migrants often engage in physical confrontation with border guards rather than fleeing, and serious physical atrocities have also taken place at the border.
He also said that the reinforcement of the border fence is ongoing, and a new fence is being built on the Hóduna section.
Tamás Harangozó (Hungarian Socialist Party), an opposition member of the Parliament’s Committee on Defense and Law Enforcement, said that the one-week training of border guards was not enough and predicted that many would probably be demobilized due to the change in working conditions. Előd Novák (Our Homeland Movement) raised the issue of introducing a deterrent fire order at the southern border, and suggested imposing “multi-million” on-the-spot fines instead of prison time for illegal border crossers.
In his reply, Bence Rétvári stressed that border guards have all the legal guarantees, equipment, and training to protect themselves. On the issue of on-the-spot fines, he noted that illegal migrants do not have much money and that families pay the money to human smugglers. As for wages, he said that border guards receive 300,000 HUF (EUR 730) gross during their training and 400,000 HUF (EUR 980) gross after the exam, while scouts receive 500,000 HUF (EUR 1,220).
László György Lukács (Jobbik) said that the increase in the number of human smugglers that have been apprehended indicates that the current punitive practices do not have a sufficient deterrent effect. According to Rétvári, the reorganization of police stations is minor and does not affect the provision of services. As for the fight against human smugglers, he said the government was open to any viable proposal to deter them from Hungary.
Featured photo via MTI/Rosta Tibor