Austria, Hungary, Serbia urge EU to help amid refugee crisis

2015-07-01 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio)  Austria, Hungary and Serbia have urged the European Union to step up efforts to fight human smuggling through the Balkans and to not just focus on southern immigration routes as they face a massive influx of refugees.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:

The Interior ministers of the three nations made the comments in Budapest after talks with the European Union's Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos. 

Speaking in Budapest, Avramopoulos noted that the refugees pressure faced by countries such as Hungary is now similar to what Greece and Italy have been facing with migration across the Mediterranean Sea. 

He called the number of arriving in Hungary, a nation of just 10 million people, "unprecedented" and said a common solution needed to be found.

"While in recent months most of the migrants came from Kosovo, we now see many coming from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. In order to manage these migratory flows, we have, as I said before, to work together. And it cannot happen in a once-seize-fits-all-manner," he added. 

EU aid

He said Hungary would receive nearly nearly $9-million in assistance from the EU to help it cope with the migration issue, including tents to temporarily shelter the migrants and further assistance to register and screen them. 

Hungary says it has received 67,000 such asylum applications so far this year and its shelters are overcrowded, though most of the migrants seek to move on to richer EU member states such as Austria and Germany.

The EU commissioner said he understood that Hungary wants to build a four-meter high fence along its 175 kilometer-long border with Serbia, but warned that in his words a "unilateral" solution "will only shift the problem to the next neighboring country". 

Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó defended the plan and also said that Hungary can no longer cope with the influx of migrants.    

"Many migrants are misusing the asylum system From every 100 only eight are really political refugees, " he told reporters. 

Ministers Concerned

His sentiments were shared by the Interior Ministers of Austria, Hungary and Serbia who also met in Budapest. They urged the EU to help them as many migrants now choose the Balkans route to reach the West. Austria announced it would send 80 police and special cameras to detect migrants on the Serbian borders. 

Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said her country "is at its limits" with the ability to bear the burden "as 40,000 migrants have applied for refugee status and the number could grow to 70,000 this year".

The struggle of Austria, Hungary and Serbia with migrant flows was expected to put additional pressure on the international community, which had been focused on the crisis in the Mediterranean, with tens of thousands of people seeking to reach Italy and Greece on a flotilla of frail boats.

An estimated 2,000 migrants have drowned so far this year trying to make the crossing. Those dangers have prompted many refugees to try the alternative Balkan route to reach Hungary, which is part of the EU's visa-free Schengen zone, allowing free travel to most EU nations.

The Hungarian and Serbian prime ministers were to discuss migration issues in Budapest, later on Wednesday.

(from Vatican Radio)