Not enough attention is being directed at the problem of illegal migration, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán warned at the Hungarian-Serbian-Austrian summit in Budapest.
“The border guards of the Serbs, the border guards of the Hungarians, and the police and soldiers protecting the Austrian border are fighting a heroic battle to curb illegal migration and to combat people smugglers,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said at a press conference after holding talks with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Monday in Budapest.
“The situation is becoming more difficult, and the numbers and the facts more alarming,” Viktor Orbán warned. “Today the world has other pressing problems, and the main focus of attention has turned to them: there is the war between Russia and Ukraine, the problem of high energy prices, and the sanctions that are plaguing us all. Not enough attention is being given to migration, yet it is at least as important as these other two issues,” he added.
“Hungary has initiated this meeting because we are in the most extraordinary situation, experiencing the problem of migration from two directions: as a result of the Russo-Ukrainian war, more than a million refugees have arrived from the east, from Ukraine; meanwhile our border is under continuous siege from the south. This year alone we have had to prevent around 180,000 attempts to cross our border illegally,” the Prime Minister recalled.
Viktor Orbán said he did not see “any change in the Brussels policy which creates pull factors encouraging migration”. ” The question of migrant redistribution quotas keeps being raised repeatedly,” he added.
According to the Prime Minister,
it would be in the interest of Europe as a whole to push the line of defense – which is currently the Hungarian-Serbian border – as far south as possible.
“We – both Hungary and Austria – have been providing assistance to Serbia and Northern Macedonia, but we feel that now a new dimension of cooperation is needed,” he added.
Speaking of the situation of illegal migrants who are not eligible for asylum, Viktor Orbán stressed: “those who have arrived here illegally should be taken back to where they came from”. He also urged the EU to establish hotspots outside the bloc’s territory.
The popular Balkan route
“Irregular migratory pressure on the Western Balkan route is steadily increasing. There are several reasons for this. North Africa has been affected by years of drought due to climate change. The causes of migration also include the coronavirus pandemic, rising inflation and poverty,” Géza Dobó, researcher at the Migration Research Institute told Hungary Today.
“In contrast, Africa is the only continent where the population is growing. More and more people are fleeing their desperation for the prosperity of Western Europe, not only via the Mediterranean but also via the Balkans,” he added.
“According to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, the increase on this route in the first half of this year is more than 160 percent, which is the highest among migratory routes.
As citizens of some North African countries, such as Tunisia, do not even need a visa to travel to Serbia, a significant number of them fly legally to Belgrade, from where they take a bus ride of just a few hours to the Serbian-Hungarian border and attempt to cross the Hungarian technical border fence, commonly known as the fence,
the expert said. In addition to North Africans, they continue to arrive via the Balkan route from the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
“Migrants are also arriving in Serbia from the south, from Northern Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo, and then attempting to enter the European Union via the dynamic and multi-junction Western Balkan route”, Géza Dobó said. He recalled that in Austria, the number of asylum seekers has soared, it is the second highest in the EU after Cyprus. By the end of August alone, more than 56,000 had been registered, an increase of nearly 200 percent on last year.
“Chancellor Karl Nehammer was formerly interior minister. The Austrian People’s Party has consistently pursued a policy of curbing irregular migration. It is also supporting Serbia in this fight,” he recalled. Following the temporary reintroduction of internal border controls on the Czech-Slovak border at the end of last month, Austria has also reintroduced border controls on its border with Slovakia.
The expert reminded that the dismantling of the border fence with Slovenia is also underway. “Although the Slovenian Interior Minister Tatjana Bobnar said that increased border controls would be maintained by other means, such as drones and thermal cameras, Austria fears that migratory pressure from this direction is also increasing,” he added.
Featured photo via Miniszterelnöki Sajtóiroda/Fischer Zoltán