Migration pressure has grown significantly on the Hungarian-Serbian border after a lull in the spring due to the coronavirus epidemic, Zsolt Halmosi, deputy head of the Hungarian police, said on Thursday.
Halmosi told a press conference in Röszke, a border town in southern Hungary, that half of all migrants detained on the European Union’s external borders in recent months have been apprehended on the stretch separating Hungary and Serbia.
This year, some 18,000 persons tried crossing illegally the Serbian-Hungarian border, and the number of people smugglers arrested this year has grown to 207, the highest since the 2015 migration crisis, he said.
Border patrols discovered 16 tunnels, complete or incomplete, under the border fence this year, Halmosi said.
In response, the authorities are reinforcing the fence’s outer perimeter and building a mesh barrier underground, he said.
Hungary has closed its transit zones in compliance with the ruling of the European Court of Justice, Halmosi noted. The 330 migrants housed there had been transferred to open centres, he said, noting that “the majority did not wait for the asylum procedure to be concluded”. At present, only 16 migrants are still housed at the open facility, he said.
Chief Medical Officer Cecilia Müller told the same press conference that uncontrolled migration poses “an extreme danger” to Hungary’s “excellent” public health and epidemiological status. Most of the migrants’ countries of origin are classified as “red”, or high-risk regarding the coronavirus epidemic, she said. Even Hungarian entrants from those countries are carefully monitored, she noted. The entry of illegal migrants may lead to hotspots of the epidemic cropping up in Hungary, she said.