By PABLO GORONDI
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The pressure faced by Hungary from flows of migrants and refugees is similar to what Greece and Italy are facing with migration across the Mediterranean Sea, the European Union's top migration official said Tuesday.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU commissioner for migration, said that the number of migrants arriving in Hungary was "unprecedented" and that a common solution needed to be found.
"Hungary is under pressure. We were talking so far about Italy and Greece, now we added Hungary," Avramopoulos said after meeting Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto. Avramopoulos said that the EU considered the problem in Hungary "the same way we approached and we are facing the situation in the Mediterranean."
Hungary will receive nearly 8 million euros ($8.9 million) from the EU to help it cope with the migration issue, tents to temporarily shelter the migrants and further assistance to register and screen migrants and refugees, the commissioner said.
Legitimate claims for asylum must be honored, "but those who abuse the asylum system or come illegally without a valid right to stay should be sent back," Avramopoulos said. "Europe is standing by Hungary."
Avramopoulos also addressed Hungary's disputed plan to build a 4-meter (13-foot) high fence on its southern border with Serbia to stem the migrant flow.
Despite efforts to coordinate migration matters, the EU could not "deprive member states from adopting their own policy as far as border management is concerned," Avramopoulos said. However, he said a "unilateral" solution "will only shift the problem to the next neighboring country, it will not solve it."
Szijjarto defended the fence, though the government has yet to say when construction will begin.
"In the case of such unprecedented immigration pressure, setting up a physical barrier is a must," Szijjarto said, adding that over 67,000 illegal migrants had entered Hungary so far this year.
EU to help 'frontline' Hungary cope with migrant wave: official
Budapest (AFP) - The European Commission has pledged to send financial aid and experts to Hungary to help it cope with a surge in illegal immigration this year, a senior Brussels official said in Budapest Tuesday.
"Hungary will receive nearly eight million euros ($9 million) of support to help it cope with the migration issue," said Dimitris Avramopoulos, the commission's senior official for migration issues, told journalists after a meeting with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.
Calling European Union member Hungary a "frontline" state like Italy and Greece, Avramopoulos said "Europe will always support frontline member states".
"Hungary is under pressure. We were talking so far about Italy and Greece, now we added Hungary," he noted.
Brussels also offered to send asylum experts and help set up temporary "hot-spot" tents to speed up identification and registration of migrants and processing of asylum requests, Avramopoulos said.
In the last two years, Hungary, also a member of Europe's passport-free Schengen zone, has become a major transit country for refugees and migrants attempting to reach wealthy Western countries like Austria and Germany by land rather than sea.
"Now more attention is being paid to Hungary," Avramopoulos said Tuesday.
In 2014, Hungary received more asylum requests per capita than any other EU country apart from Sweden, up to nearly 43,000 from just 2,000 in 2012.
Most come from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, but also from Kosovo.
This year, more than 50,000 migrants tried to cross into Hungary via Serbia between January 1 and May 31 -- representing an 880-percent increase compared to the same period in 2014, according to the EU's Frontex border agency.
The surge has coincided with a series of controversial anti-migration measures launched by Orban.
Earlier in June, his government unveiled plans to build a four-metre (13-foot) high fence on its border with Serbia to keep out migrants.
"We try to adopt a common European agenda, a common European policy on migration but member states are not deprived of the right to adopt their own policy on matters of defending borders," Avramopoulos said Tuesday.
Fences have already been built by Greece and Bulgaria, also EU member states, he said.
Later Tuesday, the interior ministers of Austria, Hungary and Serbia signed an agreement to send more personnel and technical equipment to joint police patrols on Serbia's borders with Hungary and Macedonia.
The ministers pledged to seek more EU funding for the patrols.
"The EU must not just be focused on the Mediterranean sea routes but also the Balkan route," Austrian interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told a press conference.
- Austria stops processing asylum requests amid EU row Reuters
- Hungary defies EU over migrants as crisis mounts Reuters
- EU states at odds on eve of summit on migration crisis Reuters
- EU Leaders Agree to Relocate 40,000 Migrants Who Landed in Italy, GreeceThe Wall Street Journal
- Defying EU, Hungary suspends rules on asylum seekers Reuters