BUDAPEST, Hungary — The pressure faced by Hungary from flows of migrants and refugees is similar to what Greece and Italy are facing with migration across the Mediterranean Sea, the European Union's top migration official said Tuesday.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU commissioner for migration, said that the number of migrants arriving in Hungary was "unprecedented" and that a common solution needed to be found.
"Hungary is under pressure. We were talking so far about Italy and Greece, now we added Hungary," Avramopoulos said after meeting Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto. Avramopoulos said that the EU considered the problem in Hungary "the same way we approached and we are facing the situation in the Mediterranean."
Hungary will receive nearly 8 million euros ($8.9 million) from the EU to help it cope with the migration issue, tents to temporarily shelter the migrants and further assistance to register and screen migrants and refugees, the commissioner said.
Legitimate claims for asylum must be honored, "but those who abuse the asylum system or come illegally without a valid right to stay should be sent back," Avramopoulos said. "Europe is standing by Hungary."
Avramopoulos also addressed Hungary's disputed plan to build a 4-meter (13-foot) high fence on its southern border with Serbia to stem the migrant flow.
Despite efforts to coordinate migration matters, the EU could not "deprive member states from adopting their own policy as far as border management is concerned," Avramopoulos said. However, he said a "unilateral" solution "will only shift the problem to the next neighboring country, it will not solve it."
Szijjarto defended the fence, though the government has yet to say when construction will begin.
"In the case of such unprecedented immigration pressure, setting up a physical barrier is a must," Szijjarto said, adding that over 67,000 illegal migrants had entered Hungary so far this year.