The government has prolonged the illegal migration state of crisis by six months from September 7 until March 8, 2018 at the recommendation of the Minister of Interior, government spokesman Zoltán Kovács has announced.
Kovács told Hungarian state news agency MTI that Minister of Interior Sándor Pintér proposed last week that the government should extend the state of crisis. Kovács stressed that the terror threat in Europe had increased as a result of mass migration, and therefore strict monitoring of the borders is still required for the safety of the Hungarian people.
The Beacon contacted the Ministry of Interior to request exact statistics about illegal border crossings during the state of crisis to determine whether the extension is warranted. According to the ministry’s surprisingly swift answer, since mid-September, 2015 some 209,713 illegal border crossers have been apprehended, 14,287 detained and escorted back to the border, and 40,411 repelled. (It is not clear what the ministry means by “repelled”, megakadályozás in Hungarian, and the Beacon has requested more specific definitions of these terms.)
But broken down year by year, the data paints a very different picture of migration trends through Hungary.
During the peak of the migration crisis – between September 18 and December 31, 2015 – some 189,417 people crossed the border illegally and were apprehended by authorities. In 2016, when the border fence was already standing on Hungary’s southern border blocking the Balkan migration route, the total number of illegal border crossers shrank to 19,222. This year, as of August 29, only 1,074 illegal border crossers were apprehended by authorities. The number of detentions and those repelled at the border also decreased dramatically this year compared to the previous years.
In answer to another of our questions, the Ministry of Interior revealed that since September 15, 2015, the Immigration and Asylum Office registered 37,237 applications for asylum, out of which 1,247 were accepted.
We also asked the ministry how many times it had learned of a planned terrorist act directly threatening Hungary. The ministry’s answer is telling: “Since the initiation of the state of crisis, the Counter Terrorism Centre (TEK) has not learned of any information indicating an act of terror threatening Hungarian citizens or Hungary. Europe’s terror threat is well-known.”
The extension of the state of crisis until March 8 comes as Hungary faces a general election next April or May.