Hungary welcomes Italy’s rejection of migrant ship: PM
Hungary's stridently anti-immigration Prime Minister Viktor Orban welcomed Tuesday the new populist Italian government's refusal to allow an aid ship with 629 rescued migrants on board to dock in its ports, saying he hoped it would bring about a change in the EU's migration policy.
“Finally! I let out a huge sigh of relief!” Orban said at a meeting with his Slovak counterpart Peter Pellegrini.
“I was tired of hearing for years on end that the maritime borders can’t be protected! I am now convinced that what was lacking wasn’t the capacity, but the will,” he continued.
“We assure the Italian government of our complete support,” he said, adding that he hoped Italy’s stance “can bring a change to Europe’s migration policy”.
Anti-migrant messaging played a large part in the campaign which saw Orban win a landslide victory in elections earlier this year.
A total of 629 migrants — including pregnant women and scores of children — are currently crammed on to the Aquarius ship after being rescued off the Libyan coast on Saturday and Sunday.
The Spanish government has stepped in to offer the boat safe harbour but it could be another three to four days before it is able to land, according to the charity that runs the ship.
Slovak PM Pellegrini similarly backed the Italian government’s action, saying: “We have to stop the policy which consists of saving everyone who throws themselves in the water: the coastguard or the police saves them and all of a sudden they’ve got onto EU territory.”
Slovakia is soon to take over the rotating presidency of the Visegrad Group of four Central European countries and explained that Hungary’s anti-immigration stance “is the position of the other Visegrad countries and of 90 percent of the populations of our countries and for this reason our point of view will not change”.
While holding out the possibility that Visegrad countries could contribute towards more border protection or helping migrants in their country of origin, Pelligrini repeated their rejection of any migrant quota system, saying: “We refuse to let migrants enter our country”.
This may in future set up a clash with the new Italian government’s desire to overhaul the EU’s Dublin regulations, which mean asylum seekers must submit their applications in their country of arrival.
Italy wants to replace this with an automatic system of compulsory distribution of asylum seekers throughout the EU.
Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), the junior partner in the ruling coalition, also congratulated the new Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of the xenophobic Lega Nord.
FPOe Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache said on Facebook that under Salvini “illegal migration is not being tolerated anymore,” adding: “Great!”