“Legislative border blockade” further tightens Hungary’s asylum policy against refugees

March 7, 2017

Fidesz and Jobbik MPs successfully adopted a bill on Tuesday which will make it even more difficult for asylum-seekers to receive refuge in Hungary, reports Index.hu. Critics argue that the bill, which was submitted to parliament by Interior Minister Sándor Pintér, is the latest in a series of legal undertakings aimed at lending Hungary’s mistreatment of asylum-seekers the veneer of legality while otherwise completely undermining the country’s international, EU, and human rights obligations.

These latest legal barriers, referred to by Fidesz party politicians as a “legislative border blockade,” will restrict asylum-seekers from applying for asylum anywhere outside the so-called “transit zones” based along Hungary’s southern border with Serbia. In contrast to previous laws. which required anyone being detained within 8 km of the southern border to be pushed back into Serbia (a practice known as push-backs), now anyone detained anywhere in Hungary will be pushed back to Serbia and forced to wait to access to the transit zones on the Hungarian side.

Push-backs are currently taking place, and hundreds of asylum-seekers have claimed that Hungarian law enforcement personnel have set dogs on them, beaten them with fists and batons, and subjected them to torturous treatment before sending them back into Serbia.

Once admitted to the transit zones, asylum-seekers will be required to remain there until a final verdict is reached on their asylum applications. Those within the transit zones, should they choose, will only be able to exit them by going back into Serbia, which the Hungarian government considers to be a safe third country.

According to the new rules, if an asylum application is rejected, asylum-seekers will only have three days to appeal, after which the deciding authority must reach a binding decision within another three days. The agency overseeing asylum processing will have the authority to cancel the evaluation of an asylum claim if the asylum-seeker

  • requests the claim be rescinded,
  • refuses to give a statement,
  • refuses to give fingerprints,
  • refuses to have their picture taken, or
  • simply exits the transit zone.

The new legal changes also allow the deciding authority to conduct the asylum hearing via telecommunication, e.g. video conferencing.

Asylum-seekers will be forced out of the transit zones following a failed asylum claim appeal. Should the asylum-seeker opt for another shot at the asylum procedure, they must file a new claim but their right to a new procedure and shelter will no longer be ensured.

Other provisions

The legal changes will also allow the government more leeway in declaring “mass migration emergency situations.” For example, with the new law the government is now empowered to declare an emergency situation if it finds that Hungary’s Schengen borders are in danger because of migration.

During periods of “mass migration emergency situations,” unaccompanied minors between the ages of 14 and 18 will also be forced into the transit zones while their asylum claims are evaluated. Unaccompanied minors under the age of 14 will be provided care by the state.

Márta Pardavi, co-chair of human rights watchdog Hungarian Helsinki Committee, has condemned the law, arguing that “these [legal] changes will make national courts in other EU countries even more unlikely to approve transfers to Hungary under the EU’s Dublin rule.”

In a statement released on Facebook shortly after the bill was adopted, Amnesty International Hungary said “the new regulations have completely drained the institution of international protection out of Hungary, our homeland has opted out of the European Union’s common asylum system.”