As a reaction to the ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in May Hungary closed the controversial transit zones and introduced a new asylum system, according to ECRE member Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) de facto removing the country from the CEAS. The closure of the Hungarian borders to foreigners allegedly as a COVID-19 measure, has set the country on coalition course with the European Commission recalling its obligations under Schengen.

After CJEU declared detention of asylum seekers in the transit zones on the Hungarian border with Serbia unlawful in May, the Hungarian Government abolished the system. On 18 June the Act VIII 2020 Transitional Provisions the Termination of the State of Danger and on Medical Preparedness (the Omnibus Bill) was adopted, upholding key measures introduced during the special legal order. This included the government decree related to the asylum system. Under the new system the Hungarian asylum authorities has two months to assess declarations of intent to seek protection that can only be lodged at embassies in neighbouring countries. Successful applicants would then be automatically detained in Hungary for one month. According to HHC: “By restricting access to territory and the asylum procedure in a way that is incompatible with EU law, and by exclusively designating specific places for lodging a “statement of intent” as a compulsory precondition for submitting an asylum application, Hungary de facto removes itself from the Common European Asylum System (CEAS)”.

From 1 September, Hungary has closed its borders to all foreigners with the exception of V4 countries reportedly for one month. The closure was introduced as a COVID-19 measure and according to prime minister Viktor Orbán’s head of cabinet, Gergely Gulyás the reason being that: “there a risk of introducing the virus and most of the new infections are of foreign origin…” However, the initiative has met critique from the European Commission warning Hungary that border closures are “not efficient” to fight COVID-19 and with Commissioners Ylva Johansson and Didier Reynders sending a letter to the Hungarian government: “recalling the importance of the integrity of the Schengen area and of applying border measures in a non-discriminatory way to all EU citizens and residents”, and that: “Any measures that do not comply with those fundamental principles of EU law should of course be immediately retracted”.

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Photo: (cc) jemufo, April 2010 

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.