Wednesday 17 January 2018

Hungary seeks to shut border to migrants

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban Credit: Bernadett Szabo
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban Credit: Bernadett Szabo

Krisztina Than

Hungary's ruling Fidesz party wants to draw up legislation to effectively close its southern borders to illegal migrants.

Antal Rogan, the head of Fidesz' parliamentary group, said on Sunday that by the end of May, 50,000 migrants had crossed Hungary's borders illegally, compared with 43,000 in the whole of 2014.

He said that therefore, "urgent steps" needed to be taken as Germany and Austria have signalled plans to send some 15,000 migrants back to Hungary.

Read More: 'Unlike drug smugglers human traffickers don't mind losing their contraband' - Irish aid worker on Mediterranean migrant crisis

"Fidesz' parliamentary faction is considering drawing up a bill and practically making a proposal to close the southern border with certain legal means," Rogan told Kossuth radio.

"In practice this would mean that we'd pass a law saying that those entering Hungary from a safe country, from a safe transit country, cannot apply for political asylum here."

Rogan said migrants' lives may have been in danger in Syria but they crossed Greece, Serbia or some other countries in the Balkans where they were already safe and could apply for asylum there.

Hungary borders Romania, Serbia and Croatia on the south. Serbia is not an EU member, and Croatia and Romania are not members of the EU's borderless Schengen zone.

Read More: Police raid clears hundreds of refugees out of suburb in Paris

Fidesz has lost ground in polls to the far-right, anti-immigrant Jobbik party and analysts say that its moves against migrants are intended in part to halt that.

This week the Hungarian government launched a public campaign against illegal migrants, with billboards saying: "If you come to Hungary, you can't take away the jobs of Hungarians."

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has criticised European Union proposals for migrant quotas as "bordering on insanity".

The quotas were drafted in response to the thousands of deaths among asylum-seekers trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean. The crisis has grown acute this year.

Read More: LÉ Eithne plays key role as 6,000 more migrants rescued

Most asylum-seekers came to Hungary from Kosovo, Afghanistan and Syria last year.

A UNHCR regional spokeswoman said that under international law, which Hungary had also signed up to, every individual had the right to file an asylum claim.

"I don't think it's worth getting into a debate about third countries or anything like that because in every case it's the facts of each individual that's important," Kitty McKinsey said.


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