Wednesday

21st Feb 2024

Hungary refuses to take back migrants from Austria

  • Migrants waiting to cross to Austria from Slovenia after Hungary erected its border fence with Croatia (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

Hungary said Thursday (9 June) it would continue to refuse taking back migrants that Austria argues should be returned under EU rules.

“It’s clear Hungary cannot take back these migrants,” Hungary’s defence minister Istvan Simicsko told a press conference in Budapest alongside his Austrian counterpart Hans Peter Doskozil.

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Hungary, pointing the finger at Greece, has argued that it cannot take back migrants that have crossed other EU member states before arriving to Hungary.

Under the so-called Dublin rules, which are being reviewed by the EU, the country where the migrants first enter the bloc is responsible for handling the asylum seeker’s case.

“In order to take them back they would have had to begin their journey here. But ... they crossed several countries before arriving in Hungary. They didn't suddenly get here by magic, they crossed several safe countries”, Simicsko said.

Most migrants arriving to Hungary had first travelled from Greece through Macedonia, Bulgaria (another EU country) and Serbia.

Several EU member states have suspended sending migrants back to Greece, where tens of thousands are stuck already.

Austria received 90,000 asylum requests last year, the second highest per person in the EU, and says several thousands came through Hungary, which should take them and process their claims.

Last autumn, at the peak of the migration crisis, Hungary sent busloads of migrants to Austria without registering them.

Austria has suspended sending people back to Hungary, when last September a court ruled in the case of an Afghan family, that they cannot be deported back to Hungary due to “inhumane conditions” there.

But that did not prevent Vienna from sending people back in the future, an Austrian interior ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck told AFP.

Doskozil said around 150 migrants still arrive to Austria every day from Hungary.

Transit

The issue underpins the spat between the neighbouring countries over the handling of the migrant crisis.

When Hungary built a fence last year along its Serbian and later, its Croatian border, Austria criticised Budapest for the move, only to erect its own “technical barriers” later along its Slovenian border.

Now Austria is considering sending policemen and soldiers to the Hungarian border fence, Austria daily Die Presse reported.

Since it has sealed its frontiers, Hungary has made crossing its border illegally a criminal offence, and it keeps newly arrived migrants in two makeshift transit zones along its Serbian border.

It is admitting about 20 cases per day, according to the UN’s refugee agency.

The UNHCR criticised the conditions in the transit zones earlier this week.

"We remain concerned about Hungary's restrictive approaches and the dire situation asylum-seekers face outside the transit zones," Samar Mazloum, head of UNHCR's local office said.

Currently, only 15-17 people are admitted daily at each zone, leaving hundreds "to suffer day and night without any proper support at the EU border,” he said, adding that the policy is helping people smugglers to exploit the situation.

The UN agency last week also suggested that the Hungarian policy was responsible for the drowning of a 22 year-old Syrian man in the Tisza river between Serbia and Hungary.

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