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May 11, 2018 - Zoltán Kovács

Dutch minister: two-thirds of illegal migrants make it to the Netherlands undetected, unregistered

European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos has been getting a lot of mail lately.

In case you missed it, media were reporting last week that a Dutch minister responsible for migration, Mark Harbers, sent a letter in March to Avramopoulos, the European commissioner responsible for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship.

The letter caught my eye for a couple of reasons. First, Minister Harbers appears to be channeling his inner Prime Minister Viktor Orbán when he writes:

"The Netherlands has not introduced [internal border] controls, even though more than 95% of irregular migrants and asylum seekers arrive from other Schengen States. Only one third has been registered previously. This means about two thirds still manage to enter and travel through other Member States undetected and unregistered, despite all measures taken to improve registration. The vast majority of these people cannot be returned, not even the ones who did register previously. As a result, the Netherlands ends up granting protection to large numbers of asylum seekers who consciously refuse to apply for protection in the Member State upon first arrival. Giving asylum seekers this de facto choice of which Member State they want to settle in, is in itself a pull factor."

Undetected and unregistered. Consciously refusing to apply for protection. Pull factor. In other words, illegal immigrants take advantage of the EU’s weak external borders and the Dublin system’s dysfunctionality and demand to choose the EU country they prefer instead of registering in the first safe country where they arrive. This is nothing short of an open invitation, and these are precisely the issues that Prime Minister Orbán has been warning about since the outbreak of the migration crisis three years ago.

But then the Harbers letter takes a strange turn with this outrageous proposal: “Member States refusing to demonstrate solidarity, in violation of their EU obligations, should be penalized through cuts in EU subsidies.”Later on, he claims that the Netherlands’ request for a certain conciliation procedure was “all too easily avoided” by Hungary.

Hungary’s Minister of Interior Sándor Pintér pushed back in his own letter to Commissioner Avramopoulos. Hungary rejects Mr. Harbers’ approach because, as we have said many times, “the provision of EU subsidies to Member States is set in the Treaties and it would be a huge mistake to involve and use the subsidies as a tool for achieving settlement in a particular debate of any policy area.” Minister Pintér also pointed out that “Hungary has never refrained from resolving policy issues through dialogue.”

“Hungary is only and exclusively responsible for those persons who enter the European Union on her territory first,” Minister Pintér concluded. 

And by the way, those illegal immigrants that are arriving in the Netherlands from other Schengen countries – the 95 percent that Harbers complains about – are not coming from Hungary. That’s because of the fence we erected on our portion of Europe’s southeastern border. You’re welcome.

The bottom line is: cohesion funds and EU subsidies are not some form of humanitarian aid or charity to the less fortunate member states. In fact, it is an important tool to overcome differences in economic development in Europe’s integration, which – in the end – pays off for the so-called ‘net contributors.’ Therefore, instead of coming up with innovative ways to blackmail Member States into doing as they say, Brussels might want to focus on border protection and prevent that “95 percent” from entering the Schengen Area illegally.