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CJEU advocate general: Hungary ‘Unlawfully Detaining’ Asylum Seekers in Transit Zone

MTI-Hungary Today 2020.04.24.

An advocate general of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) said on Thursday that accommodating asylum seekers in the transit zone on the Hungarian-Serbian border near the town of Röszke was equivalent to unlawful detention.

Priit Pikamae issued an opinion regarding complaints raised by two Afghan and two Iranian nationals, who had been assigned the Röszke transit zone as temporary accommodation in 2018 and 2019 and had been staying there since.

Hungarian authorities had previously rejected the complainants’ asylum requests, saying they had entered the country from Serbia, a safe transit country.

After Serbia refused to readmit them into its territory, the Hungarian authorities expelled the asylum seekers back to their homelands. Until then, the Röszke transit zone was assigned as temporary accommodation. The asylum seekers then brought a lawsuit to the Szeged court of labour and administration, saying their housing there constituted unlawful detention and asking for their asylum requests to be re-examined.

Reviewing the case ahead of the CJEU, Pikamae said in an opinion that asylum seekers placed in the transit zone, “are physically cut off from the outside world and forced to live in a situation of isolation”. They are deprived of their freedom of movement, he said. Meanwhile, “departure from the transit zone would, for asylum seekers, entail renunciation of the possibility of obtaining the international protection sought,” Pikamae said.

The opinion noted that the CJEU is “empowered to interpret the provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union independently” ensuring a higher level of protection to asylum seekers than that enshrined in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), the basis of previous rulings in cases concerning the Röszke transit zone.

Justice Minister: migrants were free to leave towards Serbia at any time

Commenting on the opinion, Justice Minister Judit Varga said Hungarian regulations were in line with EU and international law.

Varga said Hungary did not keep migrants accommodated in the transit zone in “detention” as they were free to leave towards Serbia at any time.

Pikamae’s standpoint is “diametrically opposed” to the 2019 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, in the case Ilias and Ahmed vs Hungary, which said the transit zone was not equivalent to detention, Varga said.

The Advocate General’s opinion is not binding on the European court, the minister noted.

She said the government would continue to protect the borders of Hungary and Europe, and strive to prevent international migrant corridors from forming.

Featured photo illustration by Zoltán Gergely Kelemen/MTI