Hungary worries virus could spur more migration to Europe

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The Hungarian government is “very concerned” that the coronavirus pandemic will trigger more waves of migrants trying to reach Europe from poorer nations where the disease will have a greater impact, the country's foreign minister said Friday.

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Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said European Union leaders are obligated to help citizens who lost jobs due to the pandemic by stemming “labor-oriented migration” that is “definitely against the interests” of Europe.

Szijjarto said he thinks the EU's migration policies must be scrapped because they “can be understood as an invitation for those who consider coming to Europe illegally.”

“We reject all attempts for legalizing illegal migration," he said after talks with the foreign minister of Cyprus. “We consider migration as a dangerous phenomenon, from a security perspective. There’s a cultural risk, and now there is a health care risk as well."

Szijjarto said the EU must wage a strong battle against human traffickers and take action against non-governmental organizations that in his view “basically cooperate with these trafficking organizations.”

Hungary will take a “very tough position” in upcoming EU discussions on the migration, the minister said.

The foreign minister of Cyprus, Nikos Christodoulides, said the east Mediterranean island nation faces its own migration challenges. Cyprus ranked first among EU member countries for three consecutive years in number of first-time asylum applications relative to population.

Asylum applications filed in Cyprus increased 76% last year compared to 2018, Christodoulides said.