Hungary has been using excessive violence to force asylum seekers back across the border into Serbia, according to a Human Rights Watch report saying authorities often kicked, punched and pepper-sprayed refugees.
The Human Rights Watch report published on Wednesday accused Hungary of "cruel and violent treatment" of migrants. The New York-based non-governmental organization's report included testimony from interviews it made in April and May with 12 migrants.
"People who cross into Hungary without permission, including women and children, have been viciously beaten and forced back across the border," said Lydia Gall, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Hungary is breaking all the rules and summarily dismissing claims," Gall said.
"Migrants at Hungary's border are being summarily forced back to Serbia, in some cases with cruel and violent treatment, without consideration of their claims for protection," the rights group said on its website.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been hostile towards migration into Hungary and a critic of the EU quota arrangement, which is designed to spread asylum seeker allocation among EU member states.
The Hungarian parliament passed a law last week allowing officials to apprehend refugees as far as 8 kilometers (5 miles) inside the Hungarian border and transfer them back over the border to Serbia.
In recent months, hundreds of people - particularly single young men - have been forced to wait in poor conditions in the strip of land between the Serbian passport control and the Hungarian fence.
Critics say the expulsion of migrants without any legal procedure is in violation of international law.
Hungary was the first EU country to block entry to refugees to Europe, initially erecting a fence along the border with Serbia last September and then by barring passage from Croatia a month later. Hungary also brought in new laws punishing illegal entry and vandalism of the fences. These have led to almost 3,000 convictions in fast-track trials, most resulting in expulsion orders.
Despite the fence, the number of irregular migrants caught by the Hungarian police has reportedly been growing each month this year; Hungarian authorities say that more than 17,000 were caught in the first six months of 2016.
Hungary also reportedly had one of the EU's highest rates of asylum requests in 2015, although of 199,000 applications received in 2015 and 2016 only 264 have been approved.
The government was yet to respond to the HRW report.
jbh (dpa, AFP)