“New waves of migration must be prevented from setting out towards Europe because of the coronavirus epidemic”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said in a statement to Hungarian news agency MTI on Thursday, reporting on his visit to Malta.

“Malta is one of the most exposed countries in the European Union from the perspective of illegal migration because of its location and size, as a result of which people there are highly concerned about the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on migration”, Mr. Szijjártó said. “Because the pandemic could easily become another cause of waves of migration, since the coronavirus could have major negative effects on countries that are already in a difficult position; tens or hundreds of thousands of people could set out towards Europe in the hope of a better life from countries where the economic situation is bad, and which have poorly developed healthcare systems”, he explained.

“New waves of migration from Africa and Asia must be prevented from reaching Europe following the coronavirus pandemic”, he emphasised. “However, it must be recognised that Europe is currently undefended from a southern direction, and for instance migrants are essentially free to arrive in Europe via Libya, because if they board a boat on the shores of Libya the people smuggling networks, in collusion with NGOs, will bring them to a European port”, he stated.

“Illegal migrants must be prevented from being able to board boats in Libya at all”, Mr. Szijjártó highlighted. “This requires the reinforcement of the Libyan coast guard, and European Union resources must be found to enable them to prevent migrant ships from leaving the coast of Libya”, he continued. “This necessitates the establishment of a coordination centre in Libya”, he added, explaining that in his opinion if this does not occur then the EU will remain unprotected from the south, and it will be impossible to prevent new waves of migration from setting out towards Europe as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Minister also spoke about the fact that Malta is an important partner to Hungary, not least in view of the fact that 8300 Hungarian students have registered for the opportunity to go to Malta to study English. “There will hopefully be an opportunity for this next year”, he added. Mr. Szijjártó said Hungary is also establishing a consular office in Malta to facilitate their stay and to also be able to provide assistance to Hungarian tourists. “Malta plans to open its borders from 1 July”, he added.

“In addition, we are also cooperating to aid and protect Middle-Eastern Christians, and have agreed to take joint action to ensure that they cannot be driven out of Middle Eastern territories”, the Hungarian Foreign Minister also stated.

(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade/MTI)