Thursday

14th Dec 2017

Asylum transfers to Hungary get the axe

  • Hungary has erected a fence along its border with Serbia (Photo: Freedom House)

A high court in Finland this week issued the latest in a string of European rulings on suspension of asylum seeker transfers to Hungary.

The verdict comes amid a renewed EU-level push to lift a similar pan-European transfer ban on Greece in June despite the deteriorating conditions of some 46,000 people, mostly women and children, stranded in the country along the border with Macedonia in Idomeni.

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Courts in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Norway, and Switzerland have issued similar judgements against Hungary.

"Some rulings only relate to vulnerable people rather than a blanket halt on removals. Also, practice is changing a lot in recent months," a spokesperson from the Brussels-based European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) said on Thursday (21 April).

Sweden had also suspend transfers to Hungary but may now back track.

Last September, the Luxembourg Administrative Tribunal described the Hungarian asylum system as "draconian".

Courts in Austria say Hungary's political rhetoric against seekers is "xenophobic".

Hungary's hard-line stand against asylum seekers is steered by its right-wing prime minister Viktor Orban, who has championed razor-wire fences to help stem the flows from Serbia.

EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos was unaware of the latest decision against Hungary.

The commissioner was in Luxembourg along with EU interior ministers to discuss broader issues on security and migration.

Asked to comment on the Finnish case on Hungary, Dutch justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff told reporters it had not been discussed.

"But it is good you told us," Avramopoulos told the reporter, who had asked the question, at a joint press conference on Thursday.

Meanwhile, plans to lift the transfer ban on Greece have drawn sharp criticism from the human rights body, the Council of Europe.

In a report published Wednesday, it said talks about resuming so-called Dublin transfers to Greece "is close to irresponsible."

Reports of poor treatment of people arriving on the Greek islands, blanket detentions, as well as lack of access to medical care, poor hygiene, and insufficient food for babies has cast a long shadow over the EU's migrant swap deal with Turkey.

Despite poor conditions in Greece cited by numerous aid organisations and media, the EU commission maintains the agreement with Turkey has shown positive results with outstanding issues likely to be resolved in the coming days.

"I believe it is a question of days to have a fully normal situation on the islands," Avramopoulos said on Wednesday.

The Brussels executive wants Greece to start processing up to 200 asylum cases per day by mid-May but Greece has yet to receive all the extra staff pledged by member states to meet the demand.

Only 63 asylum officers, out of some 470 required by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), have been posted to Greece. Of the 400 interpreters needed, EASO received 67.

The commission is also hoping member states will relocate up to 20,000 people from Greece and Italy, also in May.

But out of the 66,400 asylum-seekers pledged to be relocated from Greece in September 2015, only 615 had been transferred to other EU member states as of mid-April.

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