Mass illegal migration poses a major public safety risk in Europe, a state secretary of the interior ministry told the new police unit leaving to serve in North Macedonia on Tuesday.
Bence Rétvári thanked the members of the 80th Hungarian police contingent for helping to intercept the migrants seeking to make their way to western Europe via the Western Balkan route. The Hungarian police officers will not be interacting with people who want to come to Europe legally, “but with people who take even their first step towards Europe illegally”, Rétvári said.
Hungary has been helping to patrol the North Macedonian border for seven years now and Hungarian officers have also carried out border protection tasks in Slovenia and Serbia, he added. Hungary, Serbia and Austria are working together closely on combatting illegal migration, Rétvári said. Hungary last year sent a total of 350 police officers to serve on border protection missions abroad, and between 300 and 400 in the preceding years, the state secretary said.
The Hungarian authorities last year thwarted some 270,000 illegal entry attempts on the southern border, which amounts to an average of 750 entry attempts a day, he said.
The solution to illegal migration would be to intercept migrants as far south as possible, for instance, on the Greek-Turkish border, Rétvári said. “Then the whole of Europe would be a safer continent,” he said. “Unfortunately the leaders of the European Union have not come to such a decision.”
If the EU’s external borders are not protected it will lead to a return of the bloc’s internal borders, he said, noting that the EU’s economic advantage came from free movement across its internal borders.
Rétvári regretted that the EU had covered less than 2 percent of the 1.5 billion euros Hungary has spent on protecting its borders.
The state secretary also pointed out that illegal migrants were becoming increasingly aggressive, noting they had attacked police or border installations on 485 instances in 2022. Also, migrants and people smugglers now often carry weapons or objects resembling weapons, he added.