Migrant crisis: EU to help Hungary tackle big influx

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Migrants from Syria sit on a dam near Szeged, southern Hungary, 29 Jun 15Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
These migrants from Syria crossed into southern Hungary from Serbia

The European Commission has pledged to send financial aid and experts to Hungary to help tackle an influx of migrants arriving via Serbia.

The EU will provide more than €8m (£6m; $9m) in aid, tents and experts to fingerprint migrants, process asylum requests and help with expulsions.

Until recently most of the migrants came from Kosovo, but now many are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

More than 65,000 have entered Hungary illegally from Serbia this year.

The EU Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, discussed the crisis with Hungarian officials in Budapest on Tuesday.

"Hungary is under pressure. We were talking so far about Italy and Greece. Now we added Hungary.

Media caption,

Nick Thorpe visits one of the popular crossing points for illegal immigrants on the border between Hungary and Serbia

"And all these proposals made to the Hungarian government today have to do exactly with the same way we approach and are facing the situation in the Mediterranean," he said.

The interior ministers of Hungary, Austria and Serbia signed an agreement on Tuesday to boost joint police patrols on Serbia's borders with Hungary and Macedonia.

Balkan route

Last month tensions rose between Austria and Hungary after Budapest decided to suspend participation in the EU's Dublin Regulation. That rule says the EU country where a migrant first arrives has prime responsibility for handling the migrant's asylum claim.

Many enter Greece first, then travel north through the Balkans, reaching Hungary. But many of those from Kosovo or Albania first enter the EU by crossing into Hungary.

Hungary has announced plans to build a fence stretching the length of its 175km (109-mile) border with Serbia.

Greece and Bulgaria have already built fences to block illegal entry from Turkey.

Fences also surround Spain's coastal cities of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco.

In 2014 the number of asylum applicants in Hungary rose by 126% compared with 2013 - the second biggest increase in the EU after Italy (143%).

The total of applicants in Hungary in 2014 was 43,000, of whom 21,000 were Kosovans, the EU's Eurostat statistics agency reports.

In 2014 Germany had by far the highest number of asylum seekers in the EU - 203,000. Next came Sweden (81,000), Italy (65,000), France (64,000) and Hungary.