Hungary clamps down on illegal immigrants

BUDAPEST, Jun 22, 2000 -- (Reuters) Hungary said on Wednesday it is doing all it can to meet EU rules to stop illegal immigrants such as those whose bodies were found in a truck in England, but it was hampered by insufficient funding.

"Hungary will be fully in line with EU (border control) requirements by the end of 2002," Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath told Reuters.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said France will ask countries seeking European Union membership to speed up legal reforms to ensure they can enforce a proposed joint EU policy to control illegal immigration.

He said the aim was to prevent tragedies like the one in Dover where the bodies of 58 illegal immigrants, thought to be from China, were found dead in a tomato truck on Monday.

Some of the most popular routes for smuggling illegal immigrants run through eastern Europe, including a northern link through EU accession candidates Poland and the Czech Republic, and a southern route through Hungary, also an EU candidate.

Attila Krisan, spokesman for the Hungarian border guards, said Hungary had greatly beefed up security at its frontiers since a 1995 incident similar to the Dover case in which 18 Sri Lankan Tamils were found suffocated in the back of a van abandoned by its driver near the city of Gyor.

He said that with the help of supplemental EU funds, Hungary had bought scopes to detect the presence of people in trucks loaded with goods. He said the border guards also had recently received some 900 new four-wheel-drive patrol vehicles.

But he noted that with a budget of 28 billion Ft ($103.6 Million) for its entire border control service, and with 12,500 border guards to police 2,200 km (1,375 miles) of frontier, the task is a tough one.

He said 9,000 to 10,000 illegal immigrants from 115 countries try to pass through Hungary every year.

Hungary catches about 70 percent of them, another 25 percent are caught in the next country along the route and are returned to Hungary, but about five percent succeed.

An official at the Vienna office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), who asked not to be identified, said an interception success rate of 95 percent might be a "bit optimistic".

Other officials said countries like Hungary, Poland and others in eastern Europe were up against highly sophisticated organizations when it came to trafficking in people.

Original article