The UN has accused Hungary of illegally denying food for up to five days to failed asylum-seekers. Budapest replied it "is not responsible" for people whose asylum requests have been denied.
The United Nations on Friday said Hungary was deliberately depriving rejected asylum-seekers awaiting deportation of food, in violation of international law.
"According to reports, since August 2018, at least 21 migrants awaiting deportation had been deprived of food by the Hungarian authorities — some for up to five days," said UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani.
Last September, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet accused Hungary of withholding food from migrants being held in transit zones along its border with Serbia.
The UN rights office said Hungarian authorities had promised to end the practice following an interim ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.
"However, we regret that, in the absence of a clear change in the legal framework, reports suggest the practice is continuing," Shamdasani said.
She said once an asylum application had been denied, all adult migrants, with the exception of pregnant and nursing women, "are deliberately deprived of food."
Read more: Where do EU countries stand on migration?
Hungary 'not responsible' for rejected asylum seekers
Earlier this week, the Hungarian government said in a blog post, "We take the position that Hungary is not responsible for those who have not requested asylum, nor for those whose requests have been denied."
"Asylum-seekers who have requested asylum and whose claim is under review continue to receive food and shelter as they always have," the post said.
Hungary's right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been one of Europe's leading voices against migration into the EU. He has described migration as an "invasion" and "poison."
Hungary says migrants free to go to Serbia
The Hungarian government also said rejected asylum-seekers were not detained and were free to leave and cross into Serbia.
The UN rights office rejected the Hungarian claim that migrants can simply travel to Serbia to have their needs met.
"We note that such 'voluntary' departure could put migrants at further risk as it could breach Hungarian deportation orders, and force migrants to enter Serbia irregularly in contravention of Serbian law," it said.
The UN said that if migrants were "subject to detention in inadequate conditions, arbitrary detention or other forms of coercion," their return would be rendered involuntary.
Countries have "an obligation and heightened duty of care towards migrants who are deprived of their liberty, including through the provision of food," the UN office added. "We encourage Hungary to ensure it fulfills its human rights obligations towards those deprived of liberty, regardless of whether they are in transit zones or any other place where migrants are detained and cannot provide for themselves."
law/sms (AFP, Reuters)