Budapest, Hungary – The Hungarian government has extended the so-called mass immigration state of emergency for the fifth year in a row, local media Telex reported, citing state news agency MTI.
The state of emergency was first declared in March 2016 at the height of the migration crisis, and came together with the erection of a border fence and the strengthening of police and military presence along Hungary’s southern border with Serbia.
It has since then been prolonged every six months, despite low migratory pressure at the EU’s external frontiers in the past few years.
Hungary’s mass immigration state of emergency extended
A flagship pillar of the national-conservative government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Hungary’s tough stance on immigration and rejection of EU-wide quotas has long put the country at odds with some of its European partners and rights groups, who accuse M. Orban of instrumentalizing the fear of refugees for political gain and of unlawful and inhumane treatment of migrants arriving at its borders.
In 2019, the EU’s top court found that Hungary, along with Visegrad allies Poland and the Czech Republic, had breached EU law by refusing to take in refugees at the height of the 2015-2016 crisis.
While the number of asylum applicants in the EU exceeded 1,2 million in 2015 and 2016, it dropped to less than 500,000 last year.
There were less than 5,000 asylum applicants in Hungary in the entire 2017-2020 period, Eurostat data shows – a low figure that could be explained by the fact that Hungarian law automatically dismisses asylum claims from people arriving via neighbouring Serbia, which it considers a “safe country”.
The state of emergency can only be legally declared if some specific conditions and thresholds on the average number of asylum seekers are met.
Central European leaders fear new migration wave
Local authorities this time said the special legal provision was extended for another half-year due to growing migratory pressure linked to the unrest in Afghanistan.
The Hungarian government claims that illegal border crossings have already shown a significant increase, with more than 60,000 migrants stopped at the border so far this year – three times as much as in 2020.
Already back in July, leaders of the four Visegrad nations (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia) gathered in Slovenia to voice concerns over the potential migration rush from Afghanistan, on top of additional arrivals from African countries.
Several international studies found that the majority of the Hungarian population remains largely opposed to allowing more migrants in the country – figures NGOs partly attribute to the government’s fear-mongering and disinformation campaign and round-the-clock anti-refugee rhetoric from state-affiliated media.