Further joint action needs to be taken to combat illegal migration and human trafficking – Minister of Interior Sándor Pintér said on Friday in Budapest following a three-party meeting with his Austrian and Serbian counterparts.

Minister Pintér met Johanna Mikl-Leitner Austrian and Nebojsa Stefanovic Serbian Ministers of Interior to discuss possible action against human trafficking and illegal migration.

The meeting was followed by a press conference at which Minister Pintér said that illegal immigrants are a serious problem in Austria, Serbia and Hungary, adding that in 2013 the number of people who crossed Hungary’s borders illegally was between 24 and 26 thousand.

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He explained that previously illegal immigrants had not usually sought asylum, but since last year it has become a popular option, used by 18 thousand people so far. This means extra burdens for the Hungarian courts and a significant strain on the welfare system.

According to the Hungarian Minister of Interior, all refugee camps are full and tents in the Nagyfa camp need to be replaced by containers before the onset of winter.

Sándor Pintér reminded those present that there are more than six thousand asylum seekers who – according to Hungarian and EU standards – come from safe countries. These people are sent back to their countries of origin. But at the same time, people who come from Syria are treated as refugees and are catered to accordingly.

The Hungarian Minister of Interior asked Hungary’s population, and especially those who live in the neighbourhood of refugee camps, to be tolerant with these people, because they did not come to Hungary on their own accord, but fled wars and atrocities.

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Austrian Minister of Interior Johanna Mikl-Leitner stated that the severity of the problem is shown by the fact that in July and August almost six thousand people were arrested in Austria for crossing the border illegally. Those who fled terrorism or sexual violence are granted shelter, but those who are not eligible for asylum must leave the country, she added.

Human trafficking must be combatted not only domestically, but also abroad, in the Balkans, she said, adding that all three Ministers agreed that particular attention needs to be paid to Macedonia, where human traffickers show up regularly.

The Austrian Minister of Interior mentioned that Serbia needs help in the fight against illegal migration and human trafficking. This can be achieved by reinforcing the Serbian-Macedonian border, for which Austria is ready to provide the necessary technical instruments.

Minister Mikl-Leitner declared that the in the battle against illegal migration and human trafficking, cooperation between countries will become increasingly intensive, including through making the flow of information faster.

Serbian Minister of Interior Nebojsa Stefanovic expressed his gratitude for the help provided by Hungary and Austria.

He said that the number of illegal immigrants is also constantly rising in Serbia. The authorities are committed to solving the problem; Hungarian and Serbian police officers began joint patrols and are cooperating to detect human trafficking groups.

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He added that he and Minster Pintér had discussed possible means of cooperation between the Hungarian and Serbian disaster management authorities, not only in case of flood but also in the event of other natural disasters.

Minister Stefanovic thanked the Ministers of Interior of Hungary and Austria for the help that their respective countries had provided during the summer floods in Serbia.

Prior to the press conference, Ministers Pintér and Mikl-Leitner signed an updated version of readmission agreement between the two countries, according to which Hungary is ready to take back illegal migrants who arrived in Austria from Hungary and their cases will be heard by the Hungarian courts.

(Ministry of Interior)