Interior Minister Sándor Pintér (pictured) has acknowledged that, contrary to numerous statements previously issued by government officials, there have been cases of Hungarian police being disciplined for physically abusing refugees at the country’s southern border with Serbia.
At a press conference at a transit zone near the border town of Tompa, Pintér said that “every single complaint is evaluated by the prosecutor’s office independently of the police. In one of the cases it was proven that the complaint was genuine and the involved officer was dismissed with immediate effect”.
According to documents procured by Magyar Nemzet from the Prosecutor General’s office, 44 complaints of police abuse were officially registered between September 1, 2015 and March 8, 2017. Of those, 40 were investigated, and 33 were dismissed for lack of evidence. Investigations are ongoing in five of the cases.
In two of the cases, officers were disciplined with fines for using excessive force against refugees: one for kicking a seated refugee in the face, and the other for spraying a refugee in the face at close range with tear-gas as he stood on the opposite side of Hungary’s border fence.
The admissions contradict previous statements by senior Fidesz officials dismissing hundreds of allegations of police misconduct at the border. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said at a Brussels press conference in March that such claims were “media attacks” meant to make police and border guards insecure, and that George Soros was behind attempts to lure migrants into Europe.
The Interior Ministry itself denied reports in March that abuses were taking place at the border, and rejected claims by international medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) that refugees being treated by the organization’s doctors showed physical signs consistent with systematic abuse. In a communique released in March, the Interior Ministry asserted that the claims by MSF were false because, it was suspected, the organization has ties to George Soros. (As index.hu points out, MSF was founded in 1971 long before the Open Society Foundation’s Soros began his philanthropic career, and receives 90 percent of its funding from private donations.)
No removals to expanded transit zones
Pintér said at the Tompa press conference that no migrants were being transported to the expanded transit zones from open refugee camps, as was expected after the implementation of Hungary’s new asylum procedures in late March. The new rules require asylum-seekers in open camps to be transported to the transit zones where they are to be housed in shipping containers for the duration of their asylum procedures. The rules also allow for the detention of unaccompanied minors between 14 and 18 years of age, which drew condemnation from The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF.
But according to Pintér, “in the present moment, where there is an open camp, we are continuing the procedures there. We aren’t forcing anyone here.”