Calais and Budapest
Europe’s Immigration Consensus Fraying Badly

Migrants hiding in the back of trucks in Calais. © Getty Images

In the ever-escalating war of words over immigration in the European Union, Hungary has taken a series of decisive steps. Bloomberg:

The government halted its participation in the Dublin Agreement, which governs the transfer of refugees within the European Union, according to a statement on the cabinet’s website Tuesday. Austria summoned the Hungarian envoy to Vienna and the European Commission asked for “immediate clarification” on the move.

“Hungary’s immigration infrastructure is overloaded, it’s shouldering the biggest burden among EU member states,” the Interior Ministry in Budapest said in the statement.

Orban has threatened to close all refugee camps in the country and is planning to seal the border with Serbia with a four-meter high fence. The government has also started a billboard campaign calling on immigrants to respect the country’s laws and not to take jobs from Hungarians, which the United Nations and opposition parties said is stoking xenophobia.

In very broad strokes, the Dublin Agreement stipulates that the country where migrants are first registered is also where their final asylum status must be decided. Though Hungary is rarely the final destination for asylum-seekers, its borders with Ukraine and Serbia mean that it is in fact processing an outsized number of candidates. The Hungarian interior ministry said it has detained 60,620 migrants thus far this year.

The decision comes after a strike in Calais prompted migrants to take advantage of the chaotic situation to smuggle themselves over into England in the backs of (and sometimes attached to the undersides of) trucks crossing the Channel. The deputy mayor of Calais bristled at the fact that France was being asked to police England’s border:

England has got to realise that it is not our responsibility. The English border is in Calais and I’m requesting, such as (Calais mayor) Natacha Bouchart, for the border to be transferred back in Dover and in Folkestone.

We can’t just accept any more, to be blamed for immigrancy (sic). Again, they want to go to England, they are not coming to Calais, they go through Calais to get to England.

Besides the ongoing mess with Greece, immigration is supposed to be a key topic for discussion at the EU summit that kicks off tomorrow. Italy’s Matteo Renzi, in an interview with La Stampa, said that Europe urgently needs a strategy for handling the crisis. He’s right, of course. But a consensus on the strategy does not appear to be imminent.

UPDATE: Hungary has backtracked on its decision to suspend participation in the Dublin Agreement, saying it was merely asking for a delay.

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