26 June 2015

Hungary announced, on 23 June, that it would suspend applying the Dublin III Regulation, a key European Union asylum rule, raising concerns among rights monitors and at the European Commission. However in a surprise move, it reversed its decision the next day.

A government spokesman had announced the suspension of the regulation, which establishes that the country where an asylum seeker first sets foot in the EU must process their claim, claiming that it was “overburdened”.  A day later, the foreign ministry said in a statement that it was not suspending any EU rule, and that it had merely requested a grace period to deal with asylum seekers who were arriving.  

As the Dublin rules do not foresee such a suspension, following the suspension announcement, the EU Commission sought “immediate clarification on the nature and extent of the technical failure” and the measures being taken in response, a Commission spokeswoman said.

Gábor Gyulai, Refugee Programme Coordinator at the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, told the Associated Press that the EU and the international community must assist the system in Hungary, and that the country was able to cope only because most of the asylum seekers eventually moved westward within a few days.

Meanwhile, on 17 June, Hungarian Foreign Minister, Péter Szijjártó, announced at a press conference that the country would construct a four-meter-high fence running 175 kilometers along its border with Serbia. Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, told RTS television during a visit to Oslo that he was “shocked” and that it was “not the solution.”

The country also published, on 19 June, a planned amendment of the Asylum Act, with a deadline for comments the same day.

Gyulai told Canada’s CBC Radio that the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had started “a hate campaign” against migrants and asylum seekers in February this year. “In reality, it was a political reaction to a political challenge, namely, the worsening popularity of this government.”

According to Eurostat, Hungary received 42,775 asylum seekers in 2014, up from 18,900 in 2013 and 2,155 in 2012. The Hungarian government says that, to date, this year, it has received 61,000. Gyulai said the average in May was 2,000 per week, and that it was rising. The arrivals originated mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Further information:

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 26 June 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.