10 July 2015
On 6 July 2015, in a move condemned by human rights monitors, the Hungarian Parliament approved more restrictive asylum rules and backed proposals to build a fence along the Serbian border.
In a 151/41 vote, lawmakers passed amendments to the Asylum Act. The plan, approved by MPs from Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz Party, the Christian Democrats, and the far-right Jobbik party, makes it possible for officials to extend the time for which asylum seekers can be detained and to cancel their applications if they leave their designated place of residence for over 48 hours.
They also supported proposals for the 175-kilometre security fence, which, officials said earlier, would start to be constructed within weeks and completed within months.
In the special sitting on the Friday prior to the vote, the UNHCR had already expressed its “deep concern” regarding the proposals and warned they would have “devastating implications”.
Gabor Gyulai, Refugee Programme Coordinator at the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, said to ECRE that the latest moves were politically calculated, and that the government was essentially attempting to destroy Hungary’s asylum system and deter people from seeking protection in the country. He warned it could set a dangerous precedent for other EU countries experiencing rising numbers of arriving refugees by sending a message as to how they could similarly abandon common standards of protection.
Separately, in a report titled “Balkans: Refugees and Migrants Beaten by Police, Left in Legal Limbo and Failed by the EU”, released on 7 July 2015, Amnesty International said those entering Hungary illegally were routinely detained in degrading and overcrowded conditions, or subjected to ill treatment by police.
According to Eurostat, Hungary received 43,000 asylum applications last year. Thus far, this year, 72,000 migrants have entered the country.
This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 10 July 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.