Prime minister Viktor Orbán – Photo: PMO

Orbán: Illegal migration picking up

Illegal migration is becoming a bigger and bigger problem because no one is paying proper attention to the "alarming numbers and facts" of the matter, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said after meeting the Austrian chancellor and the Serbian president in Budapest on Monday. Orbán told a press conference that the meeting was the first in a series involving leaders of countries severely affected by illegal migration.

“All three [countries] suffer from illegal migration,” the prime minister said, adding that these efforts “consume immense energy, manpower and huge amounts of money.” “At the same time, we’re far from satisfied with the situation that has emerged,” he added.

Referring to the war in Ukraine, high energy prices and sanctions, Orbán said attention was being diverted away from the issue of migration to “other burning problems”.

The aim of today’s meeting, he said, was to confront the situation and work out appropriate measures, adding that Hungary was in a “special situation” owing to migration problems stemming from two directions.

The prime minister noted that more than one million refugees have come to Hungary from Ukraine, while the border was “under constant siege” from the south.

Orbán insisted that EU policy “encouraging migration” and redistribution quotas were still being tabled.

The combination of war, sanctions, the global economic downturn and food problems all added pressures in terms of illegal migration, he said.

The Western Balkans is a major migration route to Europe, he noted, and people smugglers and illegal migrants have reached a dangerous new level, using weapons in standoffs with border guards.

Hungary, Austria and Serbia are protecting the whole of Europe, not only their own borders, Orbán said.

Hungary, he added, meets its Schengen obligations, but it would be in the interest of the whole of Europe to gradually push the line of defence as far south as possible from the Serbia-Hungary border.

The prime minister said that whereas Serbia and North Macedonia have received support for their anti-migration efforts, new modes of cooperation were needed. The next meeting in the current series will be held at ministerial level in Belgrade to discuss joint action, as well as the financing and manpower needed. A third meeting is slated to be held in Vienna, he added.

Orbán said illegal migrants must be repatriated and refugee hot spots established outside EU territory for the submission of asylum applications.

Transport routes for goods and energy from the east are expected to seize up soon, so routes from the south are becoming especially important, he said, adding that Hungary now saw Serbia as its most important partner “for reaching the world”.

“We’re grateful to Serbia,” he said, referring to the gas pipeline feeding Hungary. “While Hungary has gas, Serbia will also have gas; we’ll help one other in one way or another,” he added.

Meanwhile, Orbán said rich countries were bailing out their own companies “with huge sums”, but poorer countries were unable to do the same. “Brussels must do something about this, otherwise European unity will be destroyed.”

The prime minister called Austria-Hungary ties “pragmatic”, but called for ideological questions to be put aside. “What we need now is concrete solutions rather than doctrines,” he said.

Orbán faulted the EU for not providing Hungary financing to build and operate its southern fence.

He insisted that rules in Brussels “are foreign to life in this corner of the world”. Migration rules in particular “only cause trouble” here, he added.

Orbán called for “a new refugee policy in Brussels”. “But we can’t sit back and wait; we must act,” he said.

“We’d be glad for a European solution, but right now European solutions are holding us back,” he said, adding national solutions were the way forward.

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