Hungary is set to introduce plans to detain all migrants entering the country until their asylum applications have been fully processed – a move the government says it expects will go off “like a bomb” in Brussels.
Arguing that there can be no freedom without security, the Hungarian government’s chief spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, told an audience in London: “We are going to introduce new measures: no migrants, not even those who have already issued their request for asylum, can move freely. Whether they are entitled to political asylum, refugee status or anything else.”
Kovács said the migrants would be provided with shelter, food, and education while awaiting a verdict on their applications, in line with international laws.
On the face of it, the plans fall foul of EU rules dictating that asylum seekers must “not be held in detention for the sole reason that he or she is seeking international protection”. However, Kovács denied the migrants were being detained, pointing out that they would be free to leave the shelters and return home, or to a non-EU country, at any moment of their choosing.
He insisted that the plan was necessary to prevent the Schengen free movement zone being abused by traffickers and migrants, who simply move on to the country of their choice in violation of rules which stipulate that they must claim asylum in the first safe country they reach.
“What we’ve seen in the past is asylum seekers abusing the legal framework of Hungarian and EU law. Instead of waiting for the final decision they head for Germany and the Nordic countries and within Schengen it is impossible to stop this,” he said, adding: “If you don’t put physical barriers on the borders, human traffickers are going to carry on their business.
“It is not about detention, it is about not giving the same opportunity for them as provided to European citizens. Do not be mistaken. There is a systematic abuse of that within Europe. The name of the game today is illegal migration. Everybody who comes to the EU as a migrant basically comes here illegally.”
Kovács conceded that the migrants may end up living in the camps for some months as their applications were processed, but insisted that nonetheless every single case would be reviewed on merit rather than taking applications in groups.
Hungary “will use all means at our disposal to check identity and have a very thorough investigation of each and every case,” he said. “In line with international law, we do not believe just because someone comes from Syria and there is a civil war, it should entitle groups of people to come to the European Union, especially as they will have crossed many safe countries on the way.”
Asked whether the election of Donald J. Trump as the U.S. President made such policies easier to implement, Kovács said, “We believe that a change of perspective in the United States helped others to respect the Hungarian position”.
He added: “Liberty comes only after security. If you are not able to provide security for your own country, how can you guarantee liberties?”