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UN refugee agency calls for halt to Hungary transfers

April 10, 2017

The United Nations refugee agency called on European Union states not to send asylum seekers back to Hungary under the Dublin regulation. It comes after Budapest imposed mandatory detention for people seeking asylum.

Ungarisch-Serbische Grenze Containerlager für Flüchtlinge
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/D. Vojinovic

UNHCR on Monday issued a statement calling for other EU countries to temporarily suspend all asylum seeker transfers to Hungary.

"The situation for asylum-seekers in Hungary, which was already of deep concern to UNHCR, has only gotten worse since the new law introducing mandatory detention for asylum-seekers came into effect," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.

WorldLink: Hungary's controversial container camps

The law, implemented on March 28, sees every new asylum seeker in Hungary except for unaccompanied children aged under 14 housed in shipping container camps along the fortified border with Serbia. They are confined to the camps while their applications for asylum are processed.

At the time, the Hungarian interior ministry said the policy's goal was to reduce the security risk of migration by stopping migrants whose status was unclear from moving freely around Hungary and the EU. But the use of shipping containers was criticized by human rights groups and UN agencies, who said it failed to meet Hungary's international obligations to people seeking refuge.

According to UNHCR, as of April 7 there were 110 people held in Hungary's border camps including four unaccompanied children and children with their families.

Serbien Container-Lager in Kelebija
Hungary's government has put 324 shipping containers at its border to house asylum seekersImage: picture-alliance/ZUMAPRESS.com/K. Maj

Criticism from UNHCR

Grandi called on states to suspend any transfer of asylum seekers back to Hungary under the EU's Dublin regulation "until Hungarian authorities bring their practices and policies in line with European and international law."

The Dublin regulation determines which member state is responsible for processing a person's application for asylum. Generally it means they can be sent back to the first country where they entered the EU.

Despite being "encouraged" by the European Commission's decision to work with Hungarian authorities to work to bring Hungary's practice in line with EU law, Grandi noted that "urgent measures are needed to improve access to asylum in Hungary."

The UNHCR said Hungary's physical barriers and restrictive policies resulted in effectively denying people access to asylum, which was guaranteed under international law.

Refugees mistreated in Hungary

se/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)