Hungary will defend EU against migrant wave, Orban says

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Wednesday a new wave of migrants trying to cross the border from Turkey into the European Union must be stopped as far south as possible and his government was ready to help frontline Greece.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks as he attends a news conference during the summit of the Visegrad Group (V4) countries, to discuss response to the spread of the coronavirus, in Prague, Czech, Republic March 4, 2020. REUTERS/David W Cerny

“It won’t be enough just to defend the Greek-Turkish border,” said Orban, a staunch anti-immigrant populist.

“As a last resort, as in 2015, there are the Hungarians,” he said. “Even if Greece’s attempt is successful, the EU border must be defended...which Hungary will do,” he told a news conference with Central European leaders.

Turkey, alarmed by the prospect of another wave of refugees fleeing war in northwest Syria, said last week it will no longer uphold a 2016 deal with the EU to keep hundreds of thousands of migrants on its soil in return for EU aid.

Since then, more than 10,000 migrants - mostly from Syria, other Middle Eastern states and Afghanistan - have massed on the Greek border hoping to get to western Europe. Greek security forces have used tear gas to stop them crossing.

“We will give all the help we can for Greece to stop this...Orban said. “We must do something about (them).”

Orban has campaigned for years to draw up strong EU defenses and deal with migrants in Africa and Asia, before they ever reach European soil. He said on Wednesday that about 130,000 migrants were already in the Balkans from previous influxes.

Europe should follow the policies Hungary adopted years ago, he said.

In 2015, at the height of the migrant crisis, Orban had a razor wire fence built along Hungary’s southern border, complete with sensors, floodlights and frequent patrols by border forces.

The fence has been criticized for years as has Orban’s policy to turn back virtually all migrants at the border, sometimes by depriving them of food in holding zones at border crossings.

Migrants have trickled through the Balkans for years. Their numbers have picked up behind the fence in recent months and an increasing number of them have been trying to breach it, police figures show.

Reporting by Marton Dunai and Anita Komuves; Editing by Angus MacSwan