On 12 January the Hungarian government published a statement by the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office János Lázár revealing the intent to reinstate alien police detention. These plans were later reiterated by Prime Minister Victor Orbán. The result will be the detention of asylum seekers prior to the assessment of the asylum application and in the event of refusal until the assessment of the application is final.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) has strongly condemned this initiative pointing out that detention is already widespread measure in Hungary. The country holds 225 detainees compared to only 163 persons in open reception centres on the day of the statement. Further HHC states that asylum seekers are not allowed to be detained before the refusal of their asylum claim and most certainly not in a scheme of mass detention without an individual assessment. The HHC also highlights the false sense of security offered since there is no established link between refugees and terrorism and underlines the extremely high costs for the Hungarian tax payers. The HHC promised to bring these violations of the rights of asylum seekers before the European Court of Human Rights.

The increase of detention is introduced in the context of a Trump-inspired crackdown on NGOs backed by foreign funding. In an attempt to intimidate civil society the Hungarian government is planning to force NGO leaders to declare their personal assets in the same way as MPs and public officials. In a press statement, János Lázár explicitly mentioned George Soros as ‘opposition to Hungary.’ The HHC publicly spoke out against this violation of internationally and nationally guaranteed rights such as the right to free expression and the freedom of association. Márta Parvadi, the co-chair of the HCC said “There’s an expectation by Mr Orbán that there will be more space for the Hungarian government to carry out measures that in our view hamper democratic governance and the rule of law”.

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Photo: Victor Orban (CC) EPP