The European Union must protect the sea borders with the same kind of effectiveness the Hungarian authorities have protected the land borders against illegal migration, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told MTI from Malta, where he met Maltese government officials.
The minister noted that the issue of illegal migration to Europe and associated pressures on the continent were the focus of his discussions.
Szijjártó had talks with his counterpart Carmelo Abela and Minister of European Affairs and Equality Helena Dalli, and he was received by head of state Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and Claudette Buttigieg, deputy speaker of Malta’s parliament.
He said the claim that it is impossible to protect the sea borders was “unacceptable”. Australia has been effective in protecting its sea borders totalling thousands of kilometres that not a single boat carrying illegal migrants has been able to reach its shores in the past three years, Szijjártó argued.
Szijjártó said Europe had made a “grave error” by “not having done anything” to protect its sea borders over the past three years. These three years would have been “more than enough time” for the EU to create a military force capable of protecting the sea borders, he said.
Szijjártó said the best solution would be one that guarantees that illegal migrants setting off for Europe from Africa do not even reach Africa’s northern shores, so that they cannot board human-smuggling boats. To this effect, the Visegrád countries have demonstrated “exemplary solidarity” by contributing 35 million euros to financing a border control programme in Libya, he added.
“Security today starts in the Mediterranean,” Szijjártó said. This is why, he said, the United Nations’ global migration package “poses such danger to Europe”. The document contains conditions which would threaten Hungary and Europe’s security, the minister said.
Further, the document proposes that illegal border crossing should be considered an administrative matter instead of a crime, Szijjártó said, adding that Hungary considers this “unacceptable”. Budapest views illegal entry as one of “the most severe crimes warranting strict punishment”, he said.
Szijjártó said the migration package also contains a proposal saying that illegal migrants should not be turned back either on land or on sea. In Hungary’s view, illegal migrants must be turned back immediately, be it on land or sea, and sent back to their countries of origin, Szijjártó said.
If the UN is unwilling to withdraw its current position on migration, it will entice a further tens of millions of people in Africa to set off for Europe, Szijjártó insisted.
featured image: MTI