The governments of both Austria and Hungary have issued firm statements following Turkish announcements that it has opened its borders to allow migrants and refugees on towards the EU. Both Austria and Hungary say they will defend their borders to prevent a repeat of what happened in 2015 when hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees entered the EU via the Balkan route.
"There will be no waving them [migrants] through at the border," said Austria’s Interior Minister Karl Nehammer in statements to Austrian media. His response followed Turkey’s announcement that it would open its borders for migrants and refugees to leave its territory and make their way towards the EU.
news agency Reuters added that Nehammer explained that any attempt to
rush the Austrian borders would be "stopped" if "measures to
halt [migrants] in Greece and through the Balkans first fail."
Hungary to protect its borders
has assured us that it will protect its borders as best it can, like
Croatia’s," Nehammer told the Austrian state broadcaster ORF.
Reuters reported that, when asked by ORF what he would do if migrants
leaving Turkey were to get to the Austrian borders, Nehammer answered
simply, "they must be stopped."
is a member of the governing conservative ÖVP party Österreicher
Volkspartei, led by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Kurz has always
pledged to prevent a repeat of what happened in 2015. In 2016, when
Kurz himself was foreign minister, he helped coordinate border
restrictions along the Balkan route in order to stem the numbers of
people reaching Austria from Greece.
Controls along the Balkan route
to Reuters, both men have indicated they would be prepared to do the
same again this time. "The second safety net," said Nehammer "and
here the Austrian security services have a lot of previous
experience, is close cooperation and also support, whether that be
financial, material or in terms of personnel, with countries along the
[migrants'] escape route."
Kurz reiterated this point saying that his government was in "constant contact with our partners in the EU and along the western Balkan route." Although his government is now in coalition with the left-wing Green party which, on entering government had a differing approach to migration, the Greens are minority partners and the messages coming from the new government have maintained much of Kurz' 'firm' approach to migration and border control. Something which has led some political analysts to criticize the Greens for "enabling anti immigration policies."
'Extra police to control the EU external borders'
told Reuters that Austria would be ready to send "extra police to
countries on the border," with Turkey including Greece and
Bulgaria, in order to help defend the EU's external borders.
Kurz's sentiments were echoed in neighboring Hungary. According to the news agency AFP, Hungary declared on Sunday that it was going to "halt entry to its border 'transit zone' camps for asylum seekers over coronavirus fears." AFP quoted Gyorgy Bakondi, an adviser to Prime Minister Viktor Orban: "We are seeing a certain link between the coronavirus and illegal immigrants," he told a press conference.
Hungary halts entry
to Bakondi, the majority of migrants now trying to enter the EU come
from Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories or Iran and may have
crossed Iran, one of the new 'hotspots' of the coronavirus on their way to Hungary.
Bakondi added that these measures were being taken "in the
interests of protecting the 321 people waiting for a decision on their
asylum applications who are already inside [the transit zone]."
human rights organization the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which
advocates for refugee rights, said however that Hungary's announcement had "effectively shut down access to asylum." Bakondi said
though that Hungary's message to those hoping to cross Hungarian
territory was: "The road down not lead here, it’s not worth trying
February 29, Reuters reported that Prime Minister Orban convened a
special meeting of his security cabinet following a telephone call
with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "Hungary must
strengthen the protection of its borders and pay special attention to
developments on the Balkan migration route," Orban said.
Zoltan Kovacs, Hungary's State Secretary for international communication and relations, posted a video on Facebook on Saturday, according to the English language online newspaper Hungary Today. In it he reiterated the government message that Hungary was prepared to "pursue all measures that protect the border and the Hungarian people."
•••• ➤ Also read: Hungary's slow descent into xenophobia, racism and human rights abuses
•••• ➤ Also read: UN special rapporteur slams Hungary's treatment of migrants