Press Statement after the Hungary-Serbia Border Visit by Ambassador Bell

Along with my colleague, U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Kyle Scott, I visited the Hungary-Serbia border today.   We are grateful to both the Government of Hungary and the Government of Serbia for their support of our visit, which gave us insight into the tremendous difficulties countries along migration routes face as they work to coordinate actions and meet international and regional obligations.

The refugee and migration crises that the world faces, and that both Serbia and Hungary are grappling with, are unprecedented.  We know that these two countries – like all countries affected by migration, strive to meet sometimes competing needs.  All countries have the right and responsibility to manage their borders, and must ensure the security of their citizens.  Governments and citizens of countries affected by the refugee and migration crises also must ensure that the lives, human rights, and dignity of refugees and migrants are protected, and that they have timely access to asylum procedures.

During our preparation for this trip and in meetings today, we met with officials, representatives of international organizations, and with civil society groups on both sides of the border who take these responsibilities seriously, and who are doing their best to address these needs.

We are also aware of reports of alleged abuses against migrants near the Hungarian border. The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has urged Hungary to investigate these reports.  We support their request.

We have seen first-hand the professionalism and dedication of many Hungarian officials in this challenging environment, and witnessed today their commitment to safety and human rights.  A thorough and transparent investigation into possible abuses by rogue actors is the quickest way to ensure that the good work of those Hungarians acting responsibly is not overshadowed, and is the best way to affirm support for international obligations to protect the rights of migrants.

Given the scale of the challenges, we support efforts by European countries to continue to work together to find comprehensive solutions that simultaneously ensure the security of borders and the safety of those seeking refuge.  The United States will continue to work with EU partners and with states affected by the mass movement of people to address the root causes of migration, and will continue to support the UNHCR and international organizations in their important work.