Hungary's national state of emergency "unlawful and pointless" says Helsinki Committee

March 10, 2016

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Translation of “A state of emergency ordered on the basis of speculation instead of legal conditions” (“Törvényi feltételek helyett spekulációs alapon elrendelt válsághelyzet”) published by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee on March 9th, 2016.

The government is unlawfully and pointlessly preparing to announce a national state of emergency throughout the entire country.

According to today’s government statement a migration state of emergency has been announced for the entire country.  If the government means the state of emergency caused by mass migration adopted in 2015, then it is transgressing the regulations adopted a few months ago while ignoring the most basic constitutional guarantees.  The law on refugees precisely defines the conditions for such a step to take place, and according to official statistics not one of the conditions has been met.  The announcement is the latest stage in the communication campaign intended to make scapegoats of refugees, which is only suitable for distracting the attention of the country’s population from real problems affecting it.

The conditions for declaring a state of emergency caused by migrants are set forth in the law on granting asylum, according to which the government may only announce a state of emergency if:

  • The previous month at least 500 applications for asylum are submitted daily on average (or in the previous two weeks at least 750 daily, or during one week 800), or
  • If more than 1000 people a day are present in the transit zones (or 1500 a day for the previous two weeks or 1600 people over the course of one week), or
  • If a situation connected to migration emerges that threatens the security, order or public health of a settlement, especially if the settlement in question is near a reception center where incidents of disorder or violence have occurred.

By contrast:

  • In February altogether 2175 asylum applications were submitted (in order to declare a state of national emergency roughly 15,000 a month are necessary).
  • According to official police statistics of the past seven days, altogether 906 migrants were caught not having appropriate documents, and among them were a number of individuals who did not request asylum (in order to declare a state of emergency, at least 5,600 applications are needed).
  • The combined capacity of the four existing transit zones does not exceed several hundred people.  Furthermore, two of the four transit zones were continuously empty over the past few weeks.  In this way it is physically impossible for the daily average number of users to have exceeded 1000 over the past month and there is nothing that would legally qualify as a “direct threat.”

The government’s reason for doing so, namely that the closure of the Balkan route may result in unforeseen consequences, is unlawful because it does not fulfill a single legal criteria.  Speculative expectations cannot be used to justify such a far-reaching decision.  Furthermore, the decision is completely incomprehensible from a practical point of view since the Balkan route is in reality being closed to forced migration, and will result in far fewer refugees and other migrants arriving to Hungary.  Even more utterly inexplicable is how closing the Balkan route could present a threat to a country in an area where there are neither refugee reception areas, institutions for detaining asylum seekers, which is situated far from the migration route.

The maintenance of a state of emergency in many countries for many months is unwarranted, as the Helsinki Committee already noted in November.  The government is continuing with renewed energy the communications assault against refugees.  In this politically motivated show fight, we cannot calculate with the government maintaining even the appearance of the most fundamental rule of law requirements.  Although we are talking about a communications trick, the consequences will be entirely real.  After declaring a state of emergency due to migration, the government has the right to introduce the use of weapons anywhere in the country by the army over the course of fulfilling its policing responsibilities.  The police can enter private homes and close areas in the interest of “ensuring measures are taken against epidemic.”  The “state of emergency” also relieves the authorities of the obligation of providing legal assistance to children traveling alone who have been separated from their families.  In this way they must find their way through the legal maze of asylum seekers completely alone.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee calls on the government to immediately withdraw the illegal and unjustified decision.