Hungary Vows It Will Protect Europe from Illegal Mass Migration, Again

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban gives a joint press conference with Czech Republic's Prime Minister, Poland's Prime Minister and Slovakia's Prime Minister after a meeting of representatives of the Visegrad Group (V4), focusing on measures in response to the new coronavirus COVID-19, on March 4, 2020 in Prague. (Photo by …
MICHAL CIZEK/AFP via Getty Images

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has said that his country will defend Europe against a wave of illegal mass migration as it had done in 2015 during the first migrant crisis.

Speaking to the media at a press conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Orbán said while his country and the EU should “give all the help we can” to Greece to stop the migrant flows, “It won’t be enough just to defend the Greek-Turkish border.”

“As a last resort, as in 2015, there are the Hungarians,” he said during the summit with leaders of the three other central European Visegrád countries, adding: “Even if Greece’s attempt is successful, the EU border must be defended… which Hungary will do.”

Last week, Ankara broke the 2015 agreement with Brussels in which it would stop the illegal flow of migrants through Turkey in exchange for money and continuing EU accession talks, and opened the gates which resulted in thousands of migrants amassing on the near-east country’s land border with Greece. The migrants are reportedly from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Turkey’s Islamist president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, declared on Monday that “the doors are now open”, telling the EU “to take your share of the burden”. There are some 3.6 million migrants living in Turkey.

Over the weekend, unmarked white coaches were seen driving migrants from Istanbul to the border with Greece, free of charge. People smugglers in the border region have said that they have been given free rein by Erdoğan’s government, with one telling media that it was his patriotic duty to get migrants out of Turkey so that his country’s economy can improve.

Greece was the main entry point into Europe for Middle Eastern migrants and asylum seekers during the 2015 migrant crisis, which saw hundreds of thousands march along what became known as the Balkan route, through Hungary, and onwards to wealthy, northern-European countries like Germany and Sweden that have generous welfare packages.

Hungary vowed to stop the flows into Europe by building a border fence, increasing border guard patrols, and enacting zero-tolerance on illegal migrants. A report from September 2017 revealed that the central European nation’s common sense approach to stopping mass migration worked, slashing illegal immigration by 99 per cent, the numbers falling from 391,000 in 2015, to just 1,184 in 2017.

A leaked report from Frontex, the EU’s border agency, warned of “mass migration flows” to Greece that will be “difficult to stop” this time around. European leaders like Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz have called Turkey’s action an attack on Greece and Europe. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited the border with Turkey and said that the bloc would show “solidarity” with Greece.

The word “solidarity” in the EU has become tainted for Conservatives and populists, owing to it evoking the response of Brussels and Berlin to the 2015 crisis. After German Chancellor Angela Merkel flung open the doors of Europe to unlimited migrants, she then demanded other countries — who had not been party to the decision to suspend asylum rules in the first place — show their ‘European solidarity’ and take their ‘fair share’ of migrants. If member states did not, the EU threatened punishment. The ultimatum caused a rift in the EU between Western and Eastern Europe, with countries like Hungary and Poland flatly rejecting asylum seekers.

While Brussels and the bloc’s liberal-progressive members have pushed for an EU-wide asylum policy — which seeks to dole out arrivals to member states and fails to increase security — Hungary has said the superstate should instead take her lead and fortify Europe’s external borders as well as focusing on supporting refugees in their own countries and regions.

–Hungary suspends admission of illegals to transit area due to threat of coronavirus —

On top of the new migrant crisis, Europe is also grappling with the threat of the China-origin coronavirus. Hungary has changed its already robust asylum rules in light of the spreading virus, with the country’s national security advisor Gyorgy Bakondi announcing on Sunday that because of the related risks of uncontrolled movements of people and infection, “Hungary has indefinitely suspended access to border transit areas for asylum seekers”.

“We observe a certain link between coronavirus and illegal migrants,” Mr Bakondi said in comments reported by euronews.

The national security adviser continued that there is particular concern over illegals arriving from, or who have travelled, through Iran, a virus epicentre.

In the UK, the number of confirmed cases has jumped to 85. The situation is worse in Italy, where some 2,260 people have contracted coronavirus and there have been 80 deaths. On Wednesday, the Italian government announced that schools will be closed in an attempt to halt the spread of the deadly virus.

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