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UN Urges EU States to Suspend ‘Transfers’ of Asylum-Seekers to Hungary

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 6:30
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Human Wrongs Watch

The United Nations refugee agency on 10 April 2017 called on European Union (EU) members to temporarily suspend returns of asylum-seekers to Hungary, concerned about the country’s new policy of detaining migrants at the border or expelling those not holding the proper papers.*

Asylum-seekers rest in their room in the Debrecen Reception Centre, Hungary. Photo: UNHCR/Béla Szandelszky

“The situation for asylum-seekers in Hungary, which was already of deep concern, has only gotten worse since the new law introducing mandatory detention for asylum-seekers came into effect,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The EU’s Dublin Regulation, named after the Irish capital in which it was agreed more than 25 years ago, is an EU instrument that determines which European State is responsible for examining an asylum seeker’s application.

“Given the worsening situation of asylum-seekers in Hungary, I urge States to suspend any Dublin transfer of asylum-seekers to this country until the Hungarian authorities bring their practices and policies in line with European and international law,” he added.

While Mr. Grandi said he was “encouraged” by the decision taken by the European Commission to work with the Hungarian authorities with a view to bringing the new legislation and Hungary’s practice in line with EU law, he noted that “urgent measures are needed to improve access to asylum in Hungary.”

The High Commissioner’s Office (UNHCR) has repeatedly raised its concerns over the situation of refugees and asylum-seekers arriving to Hungary with the authorities and the EU, stressing that physical barriers and restrictive policies have resulted in effectively denying access to territory and asylum.

Hungary’s “emergency measures” under the amended law on asylum expand mandatory detention of asylum seekers and lead to the expulsion from the country of anyone who enters the country irregularly, in violation of the country’s obligations under international law.

UNHCR reported that since it came into force on 28 March, new asylum-seekers, including children, are detained in shipping containers surrounded by high razor fences at the border for the entire length of their asylum procedures. As of 7 April, there were 110 people, including four unaccompanied children and children with their families, held there.

“While acknowledging the authorities’ recent efforts to address police violence, we remain very concerned about highly disturbing reports of serious incidents of ill-treatment and violence against people crossing the border into Hungary, including by State agents,” said Mr. Grandi.

“These unacceptable practices must be brought to an end and I urge the Hungarian authorities to further investigate any allegation of abuse and violence,” he added.

RELATED: UN agency urges EU to adopt stronger approach on refugees, asylum seekers

Back in December, UNHCR presented a series of proposals to the EU and Member States to improve the distribution of asylum claims among Member States. The High Commissioner also called for the EU to adopt a simplified asylum system that would identify, register and process arrivals swiftly and efficiently.

“This is key to ensure access to protection for those who need it and to restore public trust,” he said. (*SOURCE: UN).

‘Hungarian Law that Could Detain All Asylum-seekers Violates Country’s lLegal Obligations’

The United Nations refugee agency had on 7 March 2017 voiced deep concerned at a new law voted today by the Hungarian Parliament that could lead to mandatory detention of all asylum-seekers, including many children – for the entire length of the asylum procedure – and warned that it would have a terrible impact on people who have already suffered greatly.**

Pakistani migrants in Kos, Greece, showing a map he received with information about the closure of Hungary border and suggesting to go through Croatia instead. Photo: IOM

“In practice, it means that every asylum-seeker, including children, would be detained in shipping containers surrounded by high razor wire fence at the border for extended periods of time,” Cécile Pouilly, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on 7 March told the media at a news briefing at the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG).

“The new law violates Hungary’s obligations under international and European Union (EU) laws, and will have a terrible physical and psychological impact on women, children and men who had already greatly suffered,” she added.

According to the UN agency, under international and EU laws, the detention of refugees and asylum-seekers could only be justified on a limited number of grounds, and only where it was necessary, reasonable and proportionate.

That requires authorities to consider whether there were less coercive or intrusive measures to achieve those goals, based on an assessment of the individual’s particular circumstances, explained Ms. Pouilly, adding that alternatives to detention should always to be considered first.

“Failure to do so could render detention arbitrary,” she said.

Until now, asylum-seekers had been allowed to stay in open reception centres across the country. However, with the new law the people who had entered the country, having passed through the transit zones, would be moved back to those zones and confined to the containers.

RELATED: Refugees and migrants taking ‘enormous risks’ to reach Europe

“This is extremely worrying, especially thinking about children being detained,” noted Ms. Pouilly, adding: “Children should never be detained under any conditions as detention was never in a child’s best interest.”

She also said that the Government had also already erected a razor wire barrier along the entire border with Serbia and, now, only 50 asylum seekers were allowed to enter the country per week, at two crossing points.

Lack of legal pathways to access Europe and because of the closed borders, many people are resorting to smugglers, which make them, and especially children, event more vulnerable and harder to track.

The UNHCR spokesperson further told the media that the physical barriers already erected, together with legislative and policy obstacles, make it nearly impossible for asylum-seekers to enter the country, apply for asylum and receive international protection. (**SOURCE: UN).

2017 Human Wrongs Watch


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