There is a connection between the coronavirus and illegal migration, Chief Security Advisor to the Prime Minister György Bakondi stated at a press conference held on Sunday in Budapest. He also said Hungary is suspending the admission of illegal migrants to the transit zone indefinitely.

Mr Bakondi highlighted that the majority of illegal migrants were arriving here from Iran or through Iran. He pointed out that Iran was one of the epicentres of the coronavirus infection where there were a great many patients, and also many fatalities. Therefore, Hungary has decided to suspend the admission of new persons to the transit zone indefinitely in the interest of protecting the 321 persons currently in the transit zone and the country.

Tibor Lakatos, head of the duty centre of the Operational Corps said there is still no confirmed case of coronavirus infection in Hungary. Worldwide there are almost 87,000 patients; however, the number of those having recovered from the disease is on the increase. He stressed that almost 50 per cent of patients had recovered, and the percentage of fatalities was below 3 per cent.

In Hungary, 125 samples have been tested so far, and in each case the presence of the coronavirus has been ruled out.

He added that the toll-free numbers and their e-mail address continue to remain available to members of the public. So far they have taken 1,433 calls and have received 605 e-mail messages. On Sunday alone, they received 77 calls and 17 e-mail messages.

In answer to a question, Mr Lakatos stressed that anyone attempting to profit from the risk of the coronavirus epidemic would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

The head of the duty centre of the Operational Corps also highlighted that Iran was regarded as one of the epicentres of the coronavirus epidemic. Therefore, they are checking passengers coming from Iran both at airports (Budapest and Debrecen) and at road border crossing stations. At the airports, so far they have examined 4,829 persons, and another 403 at road border crossing points.

Regarding the connection between the coronavirus and illegal migration, Mr Bakondi underlined primarily that Turkey’s political leadership had decided to open their border towards Europe. He recalled that in response to this, the Prime Minister had convened the security cabinet. They decided to reinforce the protection of the borders by regrouping further forces and equipment.

The chief advisor said according to Friday data, there had been 6,700 prohibited border-crossing attempts in the first two months of the year. Since then, this number may have risen to above 7,000. More than 6,100 persons tried to enter the country via the Serbian border section, while another 465 from the direction of Romania. By comparison, he observed that during the entire year last year, there had been 490 prohibited border-crossing attempts on the Romanian border section. Criminal proceedings have been instituted against 82 people smugglers.

The majority of recent arrivals are not Syrian; they are mostly from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, he stressed.

He highlighted that according to Turkish government sources, some 40,000 migrants had left Turkey to date. Their travel is organised; many of them are travelling towards the European Union by bus.

Groups of a few hundred have arrived at the Greek islands, and there are some 10,000 people waiting to enter Greece, he underlined.

Mr Bakondi said at the Turkish-Greek-Bulgarian border a group of 13,000 are planning to forcefully cross the border. Bulgaria has reassigned major forces to both its Turkish and Greek borders.

He mentioned that, according to recent information, in North Macedonia migrants are marching on motorways in large groups.

The chief security advisor stressed that the message of the Hungarian government to the Hungarian people, the Schengen Area and Member States of the European Union is that “we will defend our borders and our internal security”. This is also a clear message to migrants, he added, highlighting that “regardless of what the organisers may say, there is no path leading this way”.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)