Bakondi: Migration has resumed with the lifting of restrictions

Magyar Hírlap 9 June 2020

According to Prime Minister Orban’s Chief Domestic Security Advisor, illegal immigration to Europe would be halted if the political will existed.

During an in-depth discussion of the subject in Budapest on Tuesday, György Bakondi stated that due to the coronavirus epidemic European states introduced very strict border measures which significantly reduced the movement on the Spanish, Italian, and Balkan illegal immigration routes in recent months.

With the lifting of restrictions, however, migration has resumed with an intensity exceeding the same period in 2019, he pointed out. If there was the political will, then “yes, illegal migration could be stopped, so the liberal mantra to the contrary is not true,” he assessed. At the same time, György Bakondi called it a realistic goal to stop illegal immigration outside the borders of the European Union.

Regarding the development of the migrant situation, he recalled that on 28 February, encouraged by press reports about the opening of the borders, groups of migrants in the hundreds left the Turkish refugee camps one after the other bound for the EU. György Bakondi called it remarkable that they included only a negligible number of Syrian refugees, most of whom arrived in the Asia Minor country via the Turkish-Iranian border. 

György Bakondi said that by 22 May, the Turkish authorities had detained more than 56 thousand migrants at the border, including migrants from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, and the Maghreb and Subsaharan regions, which represents a significant increase, along with a slight increase of those detained in Turkish territorial waters.

He noted that there were also 3,579,000 Syrian refugees registered in Turkey by 22 May, and that 285,000 had returned to Syria in early March as a result of the ceasefire in Idlib. So far this year, some 9500 migrants have arrived from the direction of Turkey, including around 9000 that arrived by March, before the pandemic restrictions had been introduced, he said.

György Bakondi continued that in Greece, where there are currently 150,000 asylum seekers, the main elements of a new migration policy were announced earlier this month. Among others, he mentioned that management of the reception centers would be placed under direct government control, that the asylum process would be further accelerated, and that biometric access would be introduced into the camps.

The Greek police and army were placed on higher alert last Wednesday, as they had information some 6000 migrants had moved to the Turkish side of the border, the internal security advisor recounted, indicating that no attempts had been made to break through the border so far.

Migration has increased significantly in Northern Macedonia compared with recent periods, and has seen an extreme rise compared with last week – he continued. More than 5000 people have been registered since the beginning of the year and almost 570 illicit border crossings have been detected on the country’s southern border, typically committed by Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqis, and by a smaller number of Syrians. 

Regarding the situation in the Western Balkans, György Bakondi recalled that the Foreign Minister in Bosnia-Hercegovina had resigned because he did not agree with the handling of illegal immigration. Some 7,000 migrants have crammed into the country, “causing a difficult situation”.

Serbian authorities placed more than 9000 people in camps in early May, three thousand of whom “slipped away” with the lifting of the state of emergency only to turn up later at the Bosnian, Romanian, and Hungarian borders, he announced.

The chief advisor reported there had been a 35 per cent reduction in illegal immigration in Croatia during the first four months, however more and more people had been trying to enter the country in recent days.

At the same time, in Slovenia there has been a 70 per cent increase in the number of illegal immigrants compared with last year; more than 3000 illegal border crossings have been registered in the first five months; and two weeks ago a further one thousand officers were ordered to the Slovenian-Croatian border and a special anti-trafficking unit has been set up, György Bakondi recounted. He then characterised the Slovenian Interior Minister’s announcement that the country is “strenuously opposed” to a mandatory quota as an important statement. 

The number of arrivals in the Mediterranean in Malta, Italy and Spain has shown a threefold increase by the end May, with almost 6400 migrants registered on the route compared with 2000 last year, he indicated.

Regarding the closure of the transit zones, György Bakondi noted, that the 2017 decision of the European Court of Human Rights had still not classified staying in a transit zone as detention. However, the decision of the European Court is binding with respect to Hungary.

The chief domestic security advisor said, that the new European Commission is working intensively on changing the “failed” migration policy. György Bakondi spoke in detail about the main elements of the European Migration Pact as well as Hungary’s diplomatic positions regarding them.

Regarding the situation in Hungary György Bakondi stated that more than 10805 attempted border crossings have been made this year at the southern border, of which more than 2000 were prevented, while in more than 8000 cases those making the attempt had to be escorted back to the other side of the fence. Up to Sunday of this year 134 human traffickers have been apprehended, compared with only 53 for the whole of last year.

In closing, the chief advisor said that the earlier projection that the number of attempted border crossings on the Hungarian border would increase with the removal of the anti-pandemic measures in the western Balkan countries has been confirmed as the daily average is now already over a hundred.

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