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Government, Amnesty International Clash Over Hungarian Plans To Reinforce Border Control

Tamás Székely 2017.02.17.

The government-initiated bill on “reinforcing the legal border seal” is aimed at preventing illegal entry and movement of people of “unknown identity and motivation”, who would pose a security risk to Hungary and the European Union, the prime minister’s chief security advisor said. The Amnesty International (AI) Hungary said, however, the proposal was seriously discriminatory against asylum-seekers.

Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of the ruling Fidesz and Christian Democrat lawmakers in Visegrád, north of Budapest, Hungarian security chief György Bakondi said that the new rules, if passed by parliament, would be applied “at times of emergency caused by mass migration”. Under the new law, asylum seekers will be considered as people staying in the country illegally during the entire procedure, until their applications are evaluated, Bakondi said. He insisted that applicants would not be in detention because “they will be allowed to leave the transit zone for Serbia at any time”. Those leaving the transit zone for Hungary without permission, however, will face detention, he added.

György Bakondi noted that currently there are two such transit zones along Hungary’s southern borders, and said that while the government was not planning to set up further facilities, arrangements would be made to provide accommodation and board for more migrants. Since the beginning of the year, Hungary’s border police have prevented 2,300 migrants from illegally entering the country, and apprehended 1,900 on the Hungarian side of the border. The latter were sent back to the other side of the border, he said. Fully 752 asylum seekers have submitted applications, out of which 34 have been granted some form of refugee status, Bakondi added.

János Halász, spokesman of the ruling Fidesz group, voiced his party’s support for the legal changes, and said that the bill was drafted in line with European law. He insisted that the EU would also benefit from the Hungarian regulations, as they would contribute to security in Europe. “But we know the approach of Brussels bureaucrats,” Halász said, and suggested that the EU would scrutinise the package.

AI: Asylum-seekers face serious discrimination in Hungary

The Hungarian government’s package of amendments aimed at stricter regulations of border control is in conflict with both domestic and international legislation, Amnesty International (AI) Hungary said on Friday. The government’s starting position is wrong because there is no migration crisis in Hungary with only around 400 asylum seekers currently staying in the country, the organisation said. Those people could be accommodated at the current migrant reception facilities, AI said, and insisted it is not true that stricter measures are needed for the protection of the Schengen border.

Under the package of amendments submitted on Tuesday, all illegal entrants would be escorted back to the other side of the border. This means that people fleeing from wars and persecution would be collectively removed from Hungary’s territory, without a legal procedure, which stands against the constitution, AI said. In line with the amendment, as long as the government maintains the state of mass migration crisis, asylum-seekers will be held in detention while their request is being assessed. According to AI Hungary, it is unlawful to keep people in detention without a court ruling and without access to legal remedy. The proposed amendment also disregards an EU principle which prohibits detention purely on the basis of an asylum request. It could result in old and sick people or families with small children getting locked up, the statement said.

AI Hungary said it is especially problematic that under the proposal unaccompanied minors would be removed from the scope of child protection regulations. As a result, they would suffer serious discrimination due to their migrant status and age, which would violate the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child and also Hungary’s constitution.

via and MTI; cover photo: MTI (archive, September 2015)