Hungary fighting to uphold EU border rules in face of criticism

Hungary fighting to uphold EU border rules in face of criticism
By Adrian Lancashire
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Nothing is stopping these refugees. Hundreds have been crossing the Serbia-Hungary border every day, following these tracks. If trains are going to


Nothing is stopping these refugees. Hundreds have been crossing the Serbia-Hungary border every day, following these tracks. If trains are going to use them, how can the authorities lay barbed wire here?

The Hungary-Serbia border is one of the European Union’s external borders, which Budapest is responsible for keeping secure. On this basis, in July the Hungarian parliament approved building a 3.5-metre-high fence along it for 150 km.

Since the start of this year, the authorities have intercepted more than 167,000 refugees who were trying to cross illegally. They are brought to this registration centre in Roszke, where they wait for a few days.

Many of the refugees say they have not seen a single police officer on the road through the Balkans, including in Greece, which is another member of the EU’s Schengen area of passport-free movement.

This Monday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban spoke out to justify his firm actions in the unfolding crisis.

“We signed the Schengen Agreement and we will stick to it. We insist on this. The problem is that at the moment we can’t. The Hungarian state should be in a position to enforce it if we say that as of tomorrow morning our borders can only be crossed at designated points and according to the rules.”

To reinforce the rules, last Friday the Hungarian parliament approved a series of laws, including making illegal immigration punishable by up to three-year prison sentences.

The authorities have also been distributing notices warning of the risks for anyone breaking the law.

What the refugees want the most is to make their way through Hungary without being registered, and to make it to Austria and Germany. EU rules say asylum seekers must be logged where they first arrive in the bloc, and that country must process their application. If they get where they want to go, they don’t want to be sent back to Hungary.

The government started its information campaign abroad.

We asked the international spokesman for the Hungarian government about it — Zoltan Kovacs.

Doloresz Katanich, euronews: “What do you expect from this campaign?”

Zoltan Kovacs, Hungarian government spokesman: “[We expect] to stop illegal migrants from coming to Hungary and to handle migration in a legal way. This campaign that we are running now is aimed at telling people who are on their way to Hungary, to make sure that they understand that there are new rules concerning illegal immigrants in Hungary which will take effect next week. We would like them to know that they should not let themselves be abused by the smugglers, do not believe those who say crossing Hungary will be an easy and legal way to reach Germany.

“But we need to keep preparing to handle them with the fence on the southern border, by strengthening the police (giving them more support, sending reinforcements), and by tightening punishments, transforming the law.

“It would be a good result if these efforts decreased the number of immigrants coming to the Hungarian border, the number of those who want to cross Hungary’s borders illegally. It is really hard to give exact numbers, and it is virtually impossible to see what other way these people will go once the Hungarian border is totally monitored and the fence is ready.

“Not only Hungary but the neighbouring countries need to prepare for this.”

euronews: “Hungary was not prepared for so many migrants, leading to a lot of extreme situations. How do you explain this chaos and what is the plan to avoid anything like this from happening again?”

Kovacs: “The country is ready to take care of these people, ready to provide the service — if we can call it that — that is required under international law.


“The problem is the number of these people who are cooperating with the authorities less and less. The immigrants who just come to Hungary illegally cannot and should not decide on their own that they are leaving Hungary the next day. It is impossible under current EU law, rules prohibiting it.”

euronews: “What is the next step Hungary intends to solve the problem with? Will you accept refugees arriving legally?”

Kovacs: “Those who arrive legally at our borders and ask for asylum in Hungary or in the EU can expect that we will analyse each case according to international law. Hungary will respect EU and international legislation.”

euronews: “How do you tell if there are any terrorists among the migrants?”

Kovacs: “So far this year more than 170,000 people have arrived in Hungary illegally, without any control or checking, often without ID cards or any other papers, so with no way of identifying them. Obviously that means there’s a security risk.


“That is something important to look at when we are investigating and considering whether these people have the right of asylum. And, of course, cooperating in this are the European border management agency Frontex and other authorities who are responsible for defending the border, such as national security agencies.

“It is clearly of great importance, given the huge number of these people, that this cooperation should be tightened even more, because the numbers represent a risk, a danger on a scale we’ve never seen before.”

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