Hungary’s authorities “summarily force” migrants back to Serbia at the southern border, “in some cases with cruel and violent treatment”, without considering their claims for protection, the international non-governmental advocacy organisation Human Rights Watch has claimed in a report.
According to the report, the authorities “apply a legal fiction” to people in the transit zones along the border, and claim that “persons in the zone have not yet ‘entered’ Hungary”. The organisation established that while people belonging to some vulnerable groups are transferred to open facilities, most asylum applications submitted by single men have been promptly rejected since May this year. “People who cross into Hungary without permission, including women and children, have been viciously beaten and forced back across the border,” Lydia Gall, HRW’s regional expert, said.
Transit zones have a restricted capacity, which means that “hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers, including women and children, are stuck in noman’s land in very poor conditions waiting to enter” those facilities. Migrants attempting to cross the border bypassing the transit zones are “forced back” to Serbia, “often violently, without any consideration of their protection needs”, the report said. Migrants interviewed by HRW reported that the Hungarian authorities had treated them brutally including beating, using gas spray and setting dogs on them or “forcing them through small openings in the razor wire fence, causing further injuries”, according to the report. Authors of the report urged the Hungarian state to investigate the incidents and identify perpetrators, whether they are police officers or soldiers, or members of paramilitary organisations.
In response to the report, the Hungarian Ministry of Interior claimed that the organisation’s interpretation of asylum rules was mistaken. The statement said that while the police have handled nearly 18 000 illegal entrants this year, only eight of them have filed “complaints suggesting police violence”, adding that police investigations found all eight complaints unfounded. Migrants are not harassed at Hungary’s borders and those in need are ensured a humanitarian treatment, but they are also expected to observe the laws of Hungary and the European Union, the statement said. Asked to comment on the report, Lajos Kósa, head of the ruling Fidesz party’s parliamentary group, said the report’s reliability was “completely questionable”, as there is a “clear financial connection between the HRW and (US businessman) George Soros”, who has been routinely accused by Hungary of bankrolling illegal immigration. He also said HRW was “completely pro-immigration and an extremely biased organisation”.