Diplomatic row between Sweden and Hungary over refugees

August 15, 2016

Morgan Johansson, Justitie - och migrationsminister.Foto: Martina Huber/Regeringskansliet
Morgan Johansson, Swedish Minister for Justice and Migration

Sweden has said it will summon Hungary’s ambassador to Stockholm to protest against her country’s refusal to take back asylum seekers who first registered in Hungary.

Swedish Minister for Justice and Migration Morgan Johansson told news agency TT that Hungary had informed Sweden it would not apply the EU’s Dublin Regulation under which asylum seekers may be sent back to their first country of arrival in the EU to have their application processed there.

“All countries have to follow the joint rules, otherwise they can’t be members. I will summon the Hungarian ambassador next week and convey this,” Johansson said.

He also complained that his Hungarian counterpart Laszlo Trócsányi had refused to meet with him directly. The European Commission said it was in contact with Hungarian authorities on the question of returns.

Out of more than 152,000 migrants who are awaiting decisions on their asylum applications, Sweden says it currently has 1,061 asylum seekers it would like to return to Hungary

“Totally unfounded”

Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó denied the accusations, calling them “totally unfounded”.

“We will only take back those asylum seekers who entered the European Union within the territory of Hungary,” Szijjártó said. “Those hundreds of thousands who are coming from the Middle East evidently passed through at least one EU member state before they arrived here. We will not take them back.”

In June, Austria also protested against Hungary’s refusal and Budapest then ultimately agreed to take back asylum seekers registered as having entered the EU in Hungary.

Virtually ineffective

According to available data published by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, the Dublin Regulation is virtually ineffective. Between January and May, some 300 asylum seekers were sent back to Hungary under the Dublin Regulation, primarily from Germany (144) and Switzerland (44). From the 40-50,000 asylum-seekers who left Hungary in 2013-2014, only 1545 were sent back between January 2014 and June 2015 (3-4%).

Meanwhile in 2016, between January and June, 22,491 asylum applications were registered with Hungarian authorities. During the first five months the government granted international protection to only 228 asylum seekers.

According to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, 65 percent of the asylum applications registered by the authorities in the first half of 2016 were submitted by individuals arriving from areas affected by war or terrorism (15 percent from Syria, 37 percent from Afghanistan, 11 percent from Iraq and 1 percent from Somalia).

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 1,489 asylum seekers were being held at open camps in Bicske, Vámosszabadi, Körmend and Balassagyarmat as of June 20, 2016.

As of June 20, 734 first-time applicants seeking asylum (including two children) were being held in closed facilities at Békéscsaba, Kiskunhalas and Nyírbátor.