Hungary is the new black sheep of Europe in asylum matters

November 3, 2015

sheepThe Hungarian Helsinki Committee, an NGO that provides legal aid to asylum seekers, says Hungary’s asylum system has pretty much disappeared since the government introduced new laws in mid-September which essentially “pump [asylum seekers] into Serbia without conducting any substantive asylum procedure”.

What makes Hungary’s situation so unique is that Hungary has also opted out of the Dublin III Regulation that determines which EU Member State is responsible for processing the applications of asylum seekers under international law.

There are two sides to the Hungarian asylum system coin. On one side, immigration authorities are rejecting virtually every asylum claim, including legitimate ones. On the other side, Hungary refuses to allow other EU Member States to return asylum seekers to Hungary per the terms of the Dublin III Regulation.

According to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, there are nine EU Member States that have stopped remitting asylum seekers to Hungary under the Dublin III Regulation.

The non-governmental organisation says each of the nine countries has varying reasons for deciding not to send asylum seekers back to Hungary.

German courts took issue with Hungary’s decision to designate Serbia as a “safe third country” because Serbia lacks a functioning asylum system and simply cannot support asylum seekers.

Belgium has suspended the remittance of asylum seekers to Hungary because Belgian authorities are not convinced Hungary’s new asylum system will provide asylum to those who submit legitimate asylum claims.

Holland suspended the remittance of asylum seekers to Hungary under the Dublin III Regulation after Budapest announced in July that it was suspending its participation in the Dublin III system.  A Dutch court also took issue with Hungary’s decision to designate Serbia a “safe third country”, which the Den Bosch court found to be in violation of the European Charter on Human Rights.  In its written decision, the court compared sending asylum seekers back to Hungary with sending them back to Greece. A court in The Hague ruled that at-risk groups (such as pregnant women, children, and the sick) would not receive adequate care in Hungary.

In the United Kingdom, the return of refugees to Hungary can be overruled by a judge on a case-by-case basis.

In Denmark, authorities decided on October 9th to suspend the general transfer of asylum seekers back to Hungary.

Finnish authorities have also implemented a general suspension of transfers back to Hungary but can authorize the transfers in individual cases.

On October 14th, a Luxembourg court rejected the country’s immigration authority’s decision to send an Afghan asylum seeker back to Hungary under the Dublin III Regulation. The court’s ruling took into account the situation regarding Hungary’s ability to support asylum seekers and the ineffectiveness of the Hungarian asylum system. The court also took issue with Hungary’s decision to designate Serbia as a “safe third country”, the construction of the infamous Hungary-Serbia border fence, and Hungary’s criminalization of asylum seekers. According to the court, Hungary’s asylum system pretty much amounts to an automatic rejection of asylum claims.

In Switzerland, a court wanted guarantees regarding the conditions in Hungary and the treatment of an asylum seeker in need of medical and psychological attention before it would order their remittance. In late September, that same court ordered the review of a case involving the transfer of a couple and their child to Hungary because the Swiss immigration authority did take into consideration the conditions asylum seekers face in Hungary.

In Norway, the government has suspended Dublin III Regulation transfers to Hungary.

According to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, the growing number of countries suspending transfers to Hungary under the Dublin III Regulation shows that foreign perception of Hungary’s asylum system is getting worse. Fewer asylum seekers are seeing Hungary as a safe country. All of this appears to be part of a government plan to gut Hungary’s asylum system in order to achieve a status comparable to that of Greece — an EU Member State whose asylum system is flawed to the extent that it becomes the black sheep of Europe.

It seems to be working.