Budapest (MTI) – Hungary was exposed to unprecedented migration pressure last year, with the number of illegal migrants exceeding 414,000, the director of Hungary’s immigration office BAH said on Monday.
Zsuzsanna Vegh told a press conference that the immigration office had warned the European Union multiple times that the Balkan route would be a significant one for illegal migrants, but EU decision makers failed to take the risk seriously.
Vegh said that among the illegal migrants arriving in Europe through the western Balkan route, there were both genuine refugees coming from war zones and migrants who had set off for Europe for economic reasons, although some in the latter category also originated from the same crisis-ridden countries.
In the first half of the year, illegal entrants tended to submit asylum requests, whereas in the second half of the year most migrants did not, and in many cases refused to cooperate with authorities altogether.
Most illegal entrants came from the Middle East, central and south Asia, northern and central Africa and the western Balkans, Vegh said. Most asylum seekers claimed to be Syrian, with Afghan, Kosovar, Pakistani and Iraqi nationals rounding out 90 percent. BAH registered 8,000 unaccompanied migrant children last year, most of whom chose not to accept the help of Hungary’s child protection services and left the country almost immediately.
Vegh said 152,000 of the 177,000 asylum applications submitted to BAH had to be terminated because the asylum seekers had left the country before their applications were processed. International protection was granted in 15 percent of the cases of completed asylum procedures, mainly to Syrian, Afghan and Somali nationals, she said.
The immigration office is spending some 5.5 billion forints (EUR 17.4m) on the accommodation, feeding and medical treatment of refugees.
Vegh said the government’s tightening of migration laws reduced both the migrant inflow and the number of asylum applications being submitted to BAH.
Interior ministry state secretary Karoly Kontrat said the government’s bold migration policy was successful in protecting both Hungary and the EU’s external borders. He said while BAH started out with a budget of 9.7 billion forints at the beginning of 2015, the government later allocated an additional 10 billion forints to the immigration office.