Hungary's border fence – Photo: wikipedia

Szijjarto: Clear distinction must be made between refugees, illegal migrants

The international community should make it clear that there is a distinct difference between refugees and illegal migrants, and act accordingly, the Hungarian foreign minister said in Geneva on Wednesday.
14. December 2023 5:19

The foreign ministry cited Peter Szijjarto telling the plenary session of the Global Refugee Forum that Hungary was under dual pressure, from the east by the war in Ukraine and from the south by the serious challenge posed by protecting the EU’s external border from the direction of the currently busiest Western Balkans migration route.

International law clearly states that people forced to flee a country have the right to stay temporarily in the first safe country they enter but they have no right to cross through several safe countries in order to reach the destination of their choice, he said.

“Hypocrisy should be abandoned and it should be clearly stated that there is a distinct difference between refugees and illegal migrants,” Szijjarto said.

Those that flee from war and arrive in the first safe country must be regarded as refugees there who have the right to stay temporarily but those that cross through a series of safe countries by violating borders must be regarded as illegal migrants and they must be stopped, he said.

At the event co-hosted by the UNHCR, Szijjarto highlighted Hungary as the best example of respecting international law in this regard.

Hungary lets in all refugees which is best illustrated by the over one million refugees arriving from neighbouring Ukraine since the start of the war there, he said. Those refugees have received all necessary services, and equal access to health care and education, with more than 1,500 Hungarian schools and kindergarten receiving refugee children, he added.

At the same time, the authorities are making all possible efforts to stop illegal migrants, with 275,000 illegal border entry attempts registered last year and nearly 200,000 this year already, the foreign minister said.

He expressed regret about the violent behaviour of certain migrants and people smugglers, saying that several of them were carrying weapons and fired shots at Hungarian border guards in several instances.

“In order to protect the security of Hungary and Hungarians, we will never let in such people,” Szijjarto said.

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