Under fire for its handling of an evolving refugee crisis, Hungary has designated former Florida GOP Rep. Connie Mack as the country’s official spokesman in the United States.
“Hungary is a good friend and strategic ally of the United States in Central Europe,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a statement. “Congressman Mack’s job will be to ensure that U.S. media and policymakers have a direct line of communication to my office to foster a greater understanding of Hungary and our commitment to freedom and NATO alliance.”
Mack, who serves as an executive vice president at Levick, has represented the Central European country since last fall. He also is registered to work for Hungary through two lobbying shops that he owns.
Mack received $340,727 in public relations and advocacy fees from the Hungarian government during the first six months of 2015, according to records filed with the Justice Department.
Hungary has taken heat in recent weeks for how it has handled the stream of migrants attempting to enter the country along its border with Serbia — a popular route to Western Europe.
On Wednesday, according to reports, Hungarian riot police turned tear gas and water cannons on people. The country has been furiously patching holes in a razor wire fence that separates it and Serbia.
“The tough economic and defense policy decisions that Hungary has made — and continues to make every day — have made Hungary a beacon of freedom and liberty in a region now facing multiple external threats," Mack said.
A report in the Washington Post says that 174 people have been detained while trying to cross into Hungary since its borders with Serbia were sealed on Tuesday.
Those seeking asylum, mainly from violence and warring factions in Iraq and Syria, are now trying to find other ways into other European countries — some seeking the social welfare programs offered by Germany or Sweden.
More than 170,000 people have moved through Hungary to other areas of the European Union so far in 2015, according to The Guardian.
In addition to Hungary's actions, Austria, the Netherlands and Slovakia have begun implementing border controls to help stem the tide of migrants. Germany has put temporary controls in place to slow the pace.
Thomas de Maiziere, Germany’s interior minister, said last month that he expects the country receive a total of 800,000 asylum applications by the end of the year — an increase from his previous estimate over the summer.
Germany received 218,221 people seeking asylum during the first six months of 2015, Reuters reported. It has criticized other countries in the region for not doing more.
“It’s clear that the Hungarian government acted with both kindness and truthfulness toward the migrants, with strength in the best interest of the Hungarian people, and as a leader within the European Union in demonstrating how properly to deal with this very challenging issue,” Mack said in a statement.
— This post was updated at 5:56 p.m.