The Council of Europe has praised Hungary’s “fair and effective” asylum procedure and open-border policy toward refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, but immediately backtracked on its encouragement.
In a letter addressed to Interior Minister Sándor Pintér, human rights commissioner Dunja Mijatović had expressed “deep appreciation for the solidarity and generosity” the Hungarian authorities and the Hungarian people have shown towards refugees from Ukraine.
The commissioner said that she understood that the vast majority of those fleeing Ukraine had “merely transited” through Hungary and that Hungary had “only” received around 23,000 registrations for temporary protection by June 1st.
Mijatović said this constituted “a rather low proportion of the almost 700,000 entries from Ukraine” that were reported by the Hungarian authorities in that same period, and raised the concern that those fleeing may be receiving insufficient information about the protection options available to them in Hungary.
The commissioner called on the Hungarian authorities to acknowledge, value, and support the activities of civil groups in order to ensure that essential legal advice and information is provided to all those in need.
She also said that several Roma rights organizations had voiced complaints in border towns and Budapest about discriminatory attitudes at refugee shelters and when receiving assistance.
At the same time, Mijatović decided to combine the issue of genuine war refugees from Ukraine with illegal immigrants from other parts of the world, stating that she was “deeply concerned” by the situations of third-country citizens and stateless individuals, whom she said had been excluded from the temporary protection scheme, and had no possibility to apply for asylum because of the state of emergency due to mass migration declared in Hungary in 2015. She said that the humanitarian residence permits issued to people in question did not provide them with any benefits and they had “no legal certainty of a lasting protection perspective.” She said Hungary’s current legislative framework would require such people to travel to Kyiv and make an appointment at the Hungarian embassy there to declare their intention to seek asylum in Hungary “if they are not to be expelled to Serbia.”
“This situation demonstrates, in my view, the inadequacy and unsustainability of the legislative framework related to asylum currently in place in Hungary,” Mijatović wrote.
The commissioner also said it was “regrettable and particularly problematic” that “the sustained rhetoric by government officials” differentiated Ukrainians as “real refugees,” and portrayed those fleeing atrocities and war elsewhere as economic migrants. She said this went against the core principle that human rights exist to protect everyone, in the same way, regardless of national or ethnic origin, skin color, or belief.
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