Hungary says this is not a refugee crisis, but mass exodus

The new rules are to be applied in case of "mass influx". [Janossy Gergely/Shutterstock]

The measures to address the migration crisis introduced by individual member states or groups of states have been more effective than the Commission’s action, a Hungarian high official said yesterday (13 June).

Zoltán Kovács, the spokesperson of the Hungarian government, spoke to Brussels journalists in an effort to explain his country’s positions on migration, which were sharply criticised at the time of the erection of a border fence with Serbia.

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The number of refugees arriving in Hungary who claim Syria as their country of origin has fallen to 3rd, 4th or even 5th place, depending on the day – which clearly shows that people come from other regions of the world, and that Europe is not faced with a refugee crisis, but a mass migration issue, said the official.

Despite the decrease of the number of refuges, the pressure was still there, and Hungary had seen the arrival of 15,000 refugees this year despite the precautionary measures at the border, including the fence, Kovács said.

The Hungarian official said that if the Balkan route, of which Hungary used to be the EU gate, was now largely under control, this was not due to the EU-Turkey deal to stop the migrants before they reach the Greek islands, but to their own initiative measures and those adopted by individual member states, and of the joint measures of a group of EU- and would-be EU member states.

The ‘Balkan route’ was an almost uncontrolled flow of refugees transiting through Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, and seeking to settle in Austria, Germany or Sweden. Hungary and the other Visegrad countries (Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) provided assistance to Macedonia with the aim of sealing the Greek-Macedonia border. At the same time, the Commission was devising a policy of relocating refugees through quotas across the EU countries.

“Engaging with Macedonia and Serbia was more effective than the whole EU approach”, Kovács said.

“The effective mechanisms of handling the crisis come not so from the joint European, or more European answer, but from the efforts of member states”, he repeated.

The official explained that the real division between member states was among those who made genuine efforts to implement EU policies, including Schengen, and those who had capitulated and allowed flows of migrants to the EU without any control. He said that in Germany, there were “hundreds of thousands” of people still unidentified.

“We believe that the Commission’s proposals, the European institutional proposals, are aiming, or rather trying to deal with the consequences of what we are experiencing. The wording itself is telling. It is trying to suggest that we have to manage the migration, instead of having to stop the migration”, he said.

Kovács reiterated his country’s plan for a so-called “Schengen 2.0”, aiming a strengthening the Schengen borders.  He said that the so-called “hotspots” should be set up outside EU territory.

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“If we keep on this track, with people trying to misuse the European asylum system, immediately claiming political asylum, this is going to result in a replication of what we saw last year”, he said, referring to the number of refuges on over one million who arrived on EU soil.

He said that Hungary had identified more than 100 countries from where the refugees were coming from, which was clearly showing that this was not a refugee crisis.

“If we let these people come to the borders of the EU, especially the Schengen zone, [then] stopping the people misusing the [asylum] system is not going to be possible”, the official said.

Asked about the planned referendum on EU plans for a system of mandatory quotas of refugees countries should accept, Kovács said the referendum question was now in the Constitutional Court, which would decide this week or next week, and that it was likely that the poll would be conducted at the end of September or beginning of October.

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Hungary’s prime minister announced that a referendum will be held on EU plans for a system of mandatory quotas, while Austria remained unrepentant in the face of continued criticism from Greece. asked what is the Hungarian position following the Commission’s proposal from 4 May to introduce a fine of €250,000 for each migrant a country would refuse to accept under the relocation scheme, Kovács called this plan “absurd”.

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The amount, he said, was more than the salary of an engineer or a teacher in Hungary for his lifetime.

“We believe that the quota system is a false measurement of solidarity. Is it advisable that you would like to enforce something on a member state, or member states who are not willing to accept, just because of failed policies of some member states? I’m referring to last year’s behaviour on behalf of some of the bigger member states, disregarding or suspending Dublin and Schengen protocols, without consultation with the other member states”, he said.

Asked if Hungary would consider legal action, he answered:

“We will see what the results are going to be at the end of the month”.

Migration will feature in the agenda of the 28-29 June summit, which will also deal with the aftermath of the UK referendum on Europe.

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