Hungarian police recently discovered two tunnels used to smuggle migrants into Hungary from Serbia. The tunnels were found at the same time that Hungarian police reported a five-fold increase in the number of migrants attempting to enter Hungary.
Hungary is not alone: Border authorities in countries across the European Union are struggling to stanch renewed flows of illegal migration.
More than 126,500 migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East illegally entered the EU during 2019, according to the International Organization for Migration.
On November 29, Hungarian police detained 44 migrants who were found walking along a highway near Ásotthalom, a village in southern Hungary. Police later learned that the migrants had crossed into Hungary from Serbia by crawling through a 34-meter (112-foot) hand-dug tunnel.
The oval tunnel, only 50 cm (20 inches) wide and 60 cm (24 inches) high, had been dug as deep as six meters (20 feet) underground. It had gone undetected because of thick foliage in the area and because the soil that was dug out of the tunnel was dumped into a nearby canal.
A second tunnel was found in the village of Csikéria, around 40 km from Ásotthalom. That tunnel was 21.7 meters (70 feet) long. No migrants were found there. Police said they were deploying drones to search for other possible tunnels.
At the height of the migration crisis in 2015, Hungary built two razor-wire fences on its southern borders to stop or divert the flow of migrants making their way to Western Europe. The newly-discovered tunnels were built underneath those fences.
The number of migrants trying to enter Hungary illegally from Serbia increased significantly in late 2019. Of the 11,808 people who attempted to enter Hungary illegally during the first eleven months of 2019, 2,418 of those attempts were made during just the month of November, according to Gergely Gulyás, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s chief-of staff. By comparison, 5,400 attempted to enter Hungary illegally during the first eleven months of 2018.
On December 1, Szilárd Németh,