On Monday evening, a human trafficker detonated a hand grenade when stopped by Hungarian police officers, which resulted in a blast that killed him. The incident occurred only a few kilometers from the Austrian border, near the village of Vitnyéd, in the northwestern part of Hungary.
When police officers spotted a suspicious vehicle carrying six passengers heading towards Austria, they ordered the driver of the vehicle to stop. When the car pulled over, five foreign nationals were found in the passenger compartment.
The driver, however, jumped out of the vehicle and tried to flee. He was seen holding a handgun and what appeared to be a hand grenade while running away from the vehicle. The officers have instructed the driver to stop, but he had refused to comply with the police officers’ instructions, which prompted the officers to fire a warning shot in the air. It was at this moment that the alleged trafficker, while running away, had turned the muzzle of his handgun towards himself and the explosive device detonated in his hand. The suspect was declared dead at the scene.
It is not clear whether his death was an intentional suicide or the suspect had set the device off by accident while fleeing, yet this incident is being shown as an example of the risks and dangers that those guarding the Hungarian borders face from an increasingly brazen and ruthless organized people smuggling network. Although the nationality of the deceased suspect was not released by the police, he was reportedly driving a car with Hungarian number plates.
Two of the five passengers of the car, said to be foreign nationals, were apprehended at the scene, while three of them have fled. Police are still searching for them with helicopters and trained dogs. There have been no updates on the whereabouts of the suspected illegal migrants on Tuesday.
The news comes on the same day as police have reported the apprehension of another 28 stowaways in a Turkish lorry trying to enter Hungary from Romania. The illegal passengers have claimed to be from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. The driver of the car was reportedly a Turkish national and was arrested by Romanian border guard, where he is facing charges of human trafficking.
Despite the wire-fence and constant patrols, the number of daily illegal border crossings from Serbia or Romania can range from a dozen to several hundreds. As the official border-crossings are closely monitored, most illegal migrants find their way though the fence or via underground tunnels. They are later picked up by people-smugglers at locations nearby. In 2019, 150 people-smugglers were apprehended by authorities in Hungary alone, which is dwarfed by the 2020 statistics when over 320 traffickers were arrested and charged to date. By October this year, the number of apprehended illegal migrants had surpassed 28.000, but this number is widely regarded as only the tip of the iceberg.
The European Union’s response to the migrants crisis, or its lack thereof, has been criticized by many, yet its political leaders still favor a distribution system rather than effective measures to stop the flow of millions of economic migrants from Africa and the Middle-East. Hungary and Poland have often been criticized over their rejection of mandatory migrant quotas. European leaders have been trying to agree on new measures for spreading the increasing costs and effects of mass migration. The latest such measure was the 2020 European Migration Pact, that was regarded by many as a migrant quota system through the backdoor.
Zoltan Kovacs, the spokesman for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, said that ‘though it appears under a different name in the European Commission’s new package of proposals on migration and asylum, the migrant quota is still there, and Hungary opposes it, along with Poland and the Czech Republic”.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has also criticised the quota system and claimed that the main approach to migration must be the protection of Europe’s borders and the financing of anti-trafficking initiatives in countries where most migrants come from.