Worrying amendments to the Hungarian Asylum Act and the Act on the State Border entered into force on 5 July. According to the new changes, Hungarian police are now allowed to automatically push back asylum seekers who are apprehended on Hungarian territory within 8 km from either the Serbian-Hungarian or the Croatian-Hungarian border.

“Legalising push-backs from deep within Hungarian territory denies asylum-seekers the right to seek international protection, in breach of relevant obligations emanating from international and EU law,” stated the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC). EU law obliges Hungary to ensure that every person in need of international protection has effective access to the asylum procedure, and is provided with the right to stay on the EU Member State’s territory pending a decision by the competent asylum authority.

“Despite Hungary’s insistence, Serbia refuses to officially readmit any asylum-seeker that entered Hungary from its territory. As the Hungarian government’s expensive and inhuman deterrence strategy failed, only ‘extrajudicial’ options remain, such as push-backs to the external side of the border fence, without any official procedure – no matter how much human suffering it entails,” said Márta Pardavi, co-chair of the HHC.

People pushed back can either go to Serbia, which is not considered a “safe third country” according to UNHCR – or to any other EU country with the exception of Hungary -, or they can queue in front of one of the two transit zones on the Serbian-Hungarian border section (Tompa or Röszke). There they will have to wait several weeks in very poor conditions before being allowed to present their asylum claim.

“We are worried that the wording of the law leaves too much room for interpretation and may result in law enforcement agencies not respecting the human rights of migrants and breaching international law, by  forcibly expelling them without any  form of legal procedure” stated the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 8 July 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.