The ninth contingent of Hungarian police set off for Macedonia on Monday to help local police take action against illegal immigration along the Macedonian-Greek border. Hungary will be continuously sending monthly shifts of police to Macedonia until the end of the year.

At the ceremony held at the Budapest headquarters of the stand-by police to see off the departing police officers, the National Police Commissioner’s Deputy for Law Enforcement, Zsolt Halmosi told reporters: The task of the contingent is to assist the border guard duties of the Macedonian police.

He also reported on the fact that 385 police officers had served abroad on the Western Balkan migration route last year in several countries. “201 served in Macedonia, but Hungarian police also played a role in Serbia and Slovenia, and in various delegations of Frontex, the European Union’s border protection agency, in over ten Member States with the participation of 72 police officers”, he added.

Referring to the 25-man police unit, Mr. Halmosi said: “It was a significant sacrifice for them to apply for this task, because they will be performing their duties hundreds of miles from their families and loved-ones”. “This is also a major challenge and a great responsibility, because the contingent in not only representing the Hungarian police force in Macedonia, but also Hungary itself”, he added.

The Major General asked the police to perform their duties professionally and with suitable determination, but while bearing in mind human right, in accordance with internal norms and the cooperation agreement between the two countries.

Maj. Gen. Halmosi also spoke about the success of Hungarian border defence efforts. As an example, he mentioned that while over 391 thousand illegal immigrants entered the territory of the European Union via the Hungarian border in 2015, last year this number was just 18,200, adding that “Practically all of them entered the EU before 5 July; since then hardly any illegal immigrants have succeeded in entering the country along the Serbian-Hungarian stretch of the border”.

He also noted that 8500 illegal immigrants have been apprehended and accompanied back across the temporary border security fence since 5 July 2016. Last July the Hungarian border was reinforced and the number of police and military personnel involved in guarding the border was almost doubled, meaning there are currently 6-10 thousand border guards on duty in Csongrád and Bács-Kiskun counties.

According to the Deputy Police Commissioner, it is clear that the work began last year will also be required in future, because although Hungary may be regarded as a front country when it comes to illegal immigration, it is nevertheless still capable of providing assistance to the countries of the Western Balkans. “The Hungarian Police Force has once again offered Frontex 75 police officers to assist with the performance of common duties, and in addition to European border control cooperation we will also be sending 25-person contingents to Macedonia every month”, he announced.

The latest contingent to set off for Macedonia will primarily be performing patrol duties in cooperation with their Macedonian colleagues, in addition to assisting with the apprehension of people smugglers and illegal migrants who have entered the territory of Macedonia. The Hungarian professionals will not only be on duty along the border itself, but also on major and minor roads along the so-called inner border zone.

(Ministry of Interior/MTI)